Saturday 31 October 2020

The Kissing Booth 2 (2020) - Movie Review

Time to make a bit of a correction by addressing a film that I probably should’ve covered earlier. And no, I’m not just talking about this film specifically; I’m talking about the original as well. The first Kissing Booth blew past my radar back in 2018, and I didn’t see much reason to cover it at the time… but with how much Wattpad is shaping up to be the driving force for the next wave of YA adaptations, and that predates After in that trend, I figured it’d help to get that into my working history of the trend. And man, is it lucky I didn’t cover it the year it came out, as it can fit snugly between Venom and Gotti on my worst films of the year list. And honestly, it’s a bit of a toss-up whether this sequel is worse.

Friday 30 October 2020

Resistance (2020) - Movie Review

Jesse Eisenberg’s casting in this, on paper, sounds like a gag. An actor whose screen persona can be best described as ‘neurotic who never knows when to shut the fuck up’, cast as the world’s most famous mime artist Marcel Marceau. It’s the kind of stunt casting-against-type that Marceau himself experienced when he was tapped for a cameo in Mel Brooks’ Silent Movie (as, ironically, the only character with spoken dialogue), and given how mime is one of the most famously derided performance styles when looked at through a modern lens, it being used as part of a Oscar-thirsty Holocaust drama seems like a recipe for disappointment. But in truth, it fits better than it would seem at first.

Thursday 29 October 2020

The Crime Boss (Arkansas) (2020) - Movie Review

Merely seeing an actor’s body of work isn’t always enough to predict the kind of stories they’ll want to tell if they step behind the camera. Watching Jordan Peele’s sitcom and sketch-com work doesn’t exactly feel like the lead-up to becoming the man currently leading the charge for black horror in the mainstream. Ben Stiller’s frequently-frothy leading man roles feel a bit out of step with his penchant for tearing the entertainment industry several new ones as a director. And in the case of today’s film, seeing Clark Duke as the nerdy Jacob in Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (the only close-to-watchable part of that entire flick) certainly didn’t prepare me for his first step into writing/producing/directing to be this Southern-fried trailer park neo-noir.

Wednesday 28 October 2020

City Of Lies (2020) - Movie Review

In the greater mythology of hip-hop, there are few events that serve as true turning points for the culture as much as the untimely death of Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur. Partly because of how publicised their living beef was, partly because their deaths made for an argument to turn mainstream hip-hop down a more peaceful direction (Will Smith breaking out on his solo career in the wake of that is no coincidence), and partly because it embodies the inner workings of myth in that we’re still not entirely sure what really happened. They were both gunned down within a short amount of time of each other, and it remains one of the greater unsolved mysteries of the culture, up there with the anxious waiting for Detox to drop before Dr. Dre stopped edging his audience and admitted it wouldn't happen.

Tuesday 27 October 2020

The New King Of Comedy (2020) - Movie Review

Stephen Chow’s King Of Comedy is a certified classic. One of the most refined examples of Chow’s unique style of Eastern slapstick, it’s basically one of those films that anyone interested in the acting craft needs to watch, as it covers a pretty wide variety of ‘method’ acting, it’s got some of Chow’s best gags (I’m still giggling at the stuntman-on-fire scene as I’m writing this), and I can pretty much guarantee you’ll feel good after watching it. It is, at the time of writing this, my favourite Chow film. Or, rather, it was… until I saw its spiritual successor.

Monday 26 October 2020

Same Kind Of Different As Me (2020) - Movie Review

Okay, this film technically came out in 2017 (which was after it spent a good three years on the shelf from its 2014 finish date), but considering it only just became available here in Australia this year, and how royally muffed-up the cinematic release schedule has been across the board all year, I’m counting this as a 2020 movie. This is actually one that I’ve been keeping an eye out for when it would drop over here, and it’s something I hinted at when I reviewed Monster Trucks. Yep, this is another film with Don Burgess attached to it as DOP that seems like a major step-down for such a legendary figure. However, as I’ll get into, this is a much better fit for him than something like Monster Trucks.

Saturday 24 October 2020

Irresistible (2020) - Movie Review

2020 has not been a good year for political satire, at least when it comes to feature-length efforts. Admittedly, this genre has a higher degree of difficulty than most, and COVID fucking up the release schedule is likely delaying most of the good stuff while the disposable shit rises to the top, but there’s also the collective mood to account for as well. It has been a highly turbulent four years, and alongside the rising hostility across party lines, there has also been a rise in the need to vent about such things. A lot of the political cinema this year has had a heavy air of needing to get something off the filmmakers’ chests, but without the clarity needed to make it resonate when describing it to someone else. It is in this mode that Jon Stewart returns to the director’s chair with… well, I hesitate to call it the worst so far, but it is definitely the tamest, which in its own way is even worse.

Friday 23 October 2020

Project Power (2020) - Movie Review

Looks like my superhero jones is sticking around, so let’s look a film that takes that idea rather literally: Superpowers as drugs. It’s something tied into the darker aspects of a world with superpowers, where the option of taking a pill to get your own power set becomes a dilemma of whether you’d survive the trip and, more pointedly, what kind of person you’d become in the aftermath. ‘Power corrupts’ as the saying goes, and with this Nawlins-set sci-fi thriller about a new drug that gives the user a superpower for five minutes, quite a few questions get brought up. Not a lot of them get answered, though.

Wednesday 21 October 2020

The Old Guard (2020) - Movie Review

After how chock-full the cinemas have been with Marvel and DC adaptations over the last several years, it feels like we’re currently going through withdrawal as a result of the COVID schedule shuffle. Or, at the very least, I seem to be, as while Birds Of Prey appeased that appetite for a while, I think I’ve been taking for granted just how prevalent this genre has become, now that there isn’t nearly as much of the new stuff coming in. As such, much like with pretty much all things cinematic this year, I’ve turned to streaming services to get my fix, and I stumbled upon this little number. And man oh man, what a hit this is.

Tuesday 20 October 2020

The Last Days Of American Crime (2020) - Movie Review

It’s been a while since I engaged in some cinemasochism, so let’s take another dip into that hallowed hall of hogwash that is the Rotten Tomatoes 0% club. And I’ll be honest, I wasn’t even expecting to hate this all that much. I’ve been more than charitable with Olivier Megaton’s movies in the past, walking away from stuff like the Taken sequels with far less disdain than a lot of other critics out there. Yeah, they weren’t all that great, or even decent, but maybe there’s something in me that’s got a soft spot for his frenzied overload style of action. I even hunted down the original comic book this is based on, and again, it didn’t blow me away or anything, but it’s a pretty solid crime yarn. Maybe these two worlds will collide into something that I’ll see some merit in that most others didn’t.

Or maybe I’ll walk away thinking that even the film’s biggest detractors were far too lenient with what is undoubtedly one of the worst films of the year. Like, everything about this, from the Impact font-ass opening credits, to Depeche Mode getting dragged into the cesspit over the end credits, is wrong.

Sunday 18 October 2020

After The End (2020) - Movie Review

Well, this is about as close to the bone as a feature can get for me: A post-apocalyptic Aussie film, where a virus has decimated humanity, that came out just last month. Have to admit, after covering Edge Of Extinction for FilmInk a while ago, I was expecting to end up with another perplexing sit that managed to make the end of the world insufferably boring. Thankfully, that’s not what we get here; in fact, it’s a fittingly depressing look at humanity’s collapse when the rest of the world goes to shit.

Saturday 17 October 2020

Vampires Vs. The Bronx (2020) - Movie Review

Well, this should be fun. An Attack The Block style bit of genre cinema doubling as social commentary, with a group of kids from the Bronx defending their neighbourhood against invading vampires. As much as short attention spans lead people to think that political touches in horror movies is some kind of new phenomena (or worse, retroactively trying to re-write the intent behind the classics of old), this looks a great fit on paper and works even better in execution… but I’d be lying if I said it was an absolute success.

Friday 16 October 2020

Beauty Water (2020) - Movie Review

This is a weird-looking movie. The directorial debut of South Korean animator Kyung-hun Cho and his Studio Animal, it really says something when the most bizarre aspect of this whole production is how inconsistent the animation is. Not that it’s even that bad (far from it, it works really damn well); just that it uses a combination of traditional 2D line-drawn animation and 3D cell-shaded animation and… I think the 3D is devoted solely to the main-ish characters (basically whoever affects the plot in a substantial way), but going back and forth between the two styles is quite jarring. Ditto for the moments when the 2D work steps into budget-cut territory and suddenly gets extremely choppy and chicken-scratchy for a few frames.

Thursday 15 October 2020

The Babysitter: Killer Queen (2020) - Movie Review

Okay, after what happened when I tried this last year, I want to make sure I get it right this time. So let’s take it from the top.

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. Or, rather, yet another one, since when I tried out Rim Of The World in good faith, I found myself questioning why I ever bothered to give him the benefit of the doubt in the first place. The Babysitter is still an amazing flick, and rewatching it in prep for this follow-up has proven (for me, at least) that it holds up to repeat scrutiny, but maybe it was just a fluke and the only truly great thing McG has ever directed. But now that the sequel is in my hands, I really, really hope it holds up.

Tuesday 13 October 2020

The Wrong Missy (2020) - Movie Review

After the pleasant surprise of Hubie Halloween, I could play devil’s advocate and say that I decided to watch this because I thought I could trust it to be good and that Happy Madison were only making good movies now. But that’d be the biggest lie I’ve ever written down: I did this because I wanted to get Happy Madison entirely out of the way for the year as soon as possible, and knowing the distance between David Spade and the Sandman as far as actual talent, there is nothing here that set me up for a good time. And from the director of Spade’s last disaster with Father Of The Year, and the writers of his previous disaster The Do-Over, we have what you would expect from the House of Sandler, only this managed to get under my skin even worse than most.

Much like Hubie, this film feels like a greatest hit’s compilation of what the studio is known for… except this is the inverse of what we got in that film, highlighting all the little things that make these films so insufferable. For a start, the story is framed around a company retreat in Hawaii, which made me wish for a plane crash because that would mean even a modicum of variety in this played-out trope. The main problem with that trope though, beyond the laziness involved, is that because that’s the core of the narrative, the rest of the film exists largely to take up time while the actors riff and let the script drop-kick them across the screen.

Speaking of the actors, Spade continues to manage the monumental task of existing without completely disappearing, an effect amplified by how much Lauren Lapkus is giving her all as the titular Missy. She gives a level of energy that is basically unheard-of in these movies, which would make for a welcome reprieve from the norm if her characterisation wasn’t utter dogshit. She’s basically the Overly Attached Girlfriend meme made manifest, acting every Manic Pixie Dream Girl signifier ever conceived, just without any pretence about how crazy she is. However, rather than being charmingly kooky, her dialogue makes me want to expel my stomach lining all over my laptop because it’s easier to look at.

With the plot’s setup, with Spade’s character wanting to invite his dream girl Missy to the retreat but accidentally texts the titular Missy from a particularly cringey blind date, this was going to be incredibly contrived regardless of the acting pedigree involved. You can almost smell the third-act turn-around ‘I lied, but we really were made for each other’ claptrap from a mile away. That on its own is weak enough, but when combined with how it utilises Missy’s mental health for excruciatingly manipulative ends, it really ticked me off. The intentional misinformation, using potential suicide as the reason for Spade to carry on with the charade, literal brainwashing to benefit the lead, quite a few sex scenes with dubious consent… it feels weird that I don’t give this reaction to most HM movies, but fuck right off with this bullshit.

There is all of one thing I can say was competent, let alone entertaining, and that’s a shadow dancing sequence that looked like it took more preparation and talent to execute than any other moment in the HM Netflix catalogue. But everything else about this is painful, even when grading it on the same curve I did with Hubie Halloween. I hate seeing David Spade coasting on non-genetic nepotism, I hate seeing Jackie Sander dance and sing to The Right Stuff, I hate seeing Lauren try so hard to transcend the horrific writing she’s been saddled with, I hate the non-existent plot, I hate the aggressively stupid humour, but most of all, I hate that I even gave this the time of day. I went into this knowing it was going to be bad, but somehow, I still wasn’t prepared for just how bad.

Monday 12 October 2020

Hubie Halloween (2020) - Movie Review

After Adam Sandler failed to get a nomination for his work on Uncut Gems (and it really speaks to the quality of that performance that it even qualified as a ‘snub’), he went viral with threats that he would go on to make, intentionally, the worst movie ever out of spite. With how much of a critical punching bag he remains to be, it’s quite easy to make jokes about how this is likely the first time he’s given warning for his latest film being terrible… but no. No, I’m not going that route. Instead, I’m going to point out how that kind of self-aware, not-really-taking-itself-seriously humour is actually a pretty good lead-up to yet another solid starring role.

Saturday 10 October 2020

Lucky Day (2020) - Movie Review

Time for a step into genre weirdness as we look at what can only be described as the closest we’ll ever get to an ‘official’ Tarantino knock-off. Writer/director Roger Avary worked quite closely with Tarantino himself in the ‘90s, doing both credited and uncredited work on Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and even Tarantino’s writer-only gigs with True Romance and Natural Born Killers. With Tarantino seemingly hitting the twilight of his career, given his latest felt like a loving goodbye letter to the medium he adores, I’d argue that there might be some use out of a production like this as a further testament to that legacy. But that’s not the result we get, though.

Friday 9 October 2020

The Iron Mask (2020) - Movie Review

I feel like I need to put a massive ‘citation needed’ graphic on that poster because it is all kinds of misleading. They stunt-casted this movie twice over, as while Arnie and Jackie Chan are indeed in this, they are absent from roughly 85% of this two-hour feature (And on a minor note, Charles Dance is in even less of the film than them). Not that it stops just there, though; even the title isn’t accurate. Aside from being labelled in other markets as Journey To China, and the subtitle 'Mystery Of The Dragon Seal' shows up sporadically on different posters as well, it is also a sequel to the 2014 Russian film Viy, with its main character (played by English actor Jason Flemyng) returning here as the lead… kind of. If you thought all of this was confusing enough, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Thursday 8 October 2020

Relaxer (2020) - Movie Review

This film doesn’t seem like much when explaining the plot as it is. Set in the final days of 1999, it’s the story of Abbie (Joshua Burge), who is given a challenge by his brother Cam (David Dastmalchian): Get past level 256 in Pac-Man. He is not allowed to leave his apartment, or even his couch, until it’s completed. For the entirety of the film’s run time, we never leave this apartment or Abbie’s side. I know that the prevalence of Twitch streamers nowadays somewhat makes the idea of watching someone else play video games for hours on end seem plausible, but does that make this watchable? Well, in the hands of writer/director/editor Joel Potrykus, more so than you’d think.

Wednesday 7 October 2020

Jiang Ziya: Legend Of Deification (2020) - Movie Review

Ne Zha was a proper great film from last year. A Chinese animated flick that set records within the Chinese film industry, a highly entertaining piece of mythology on film, and a feature that I saw on official detail for FilmInk and was quite impressed with. So you can imagine how excited I was to learn that Beijing Enlight Pictures seems to be preparing for a shot at a cinematic universe, with today’s film being set up by Ne Zha’s post-credits scene and taking place within the same world. And honestly, even with how much I liked Ne Zha, I think I like this film just that little bit more.

Tuesday 6 October 2020

Dirt Music (2020) - Movie Review

With how much attention I bring to the names attached to the films I review, I really shouldn’t be in a position where I’m covering the same creative twice in a year by accident, but it seems that the Mighty Oak/Cats & Dogs 3 synchronicity from last month was just a harbinger of what’s to come. Today, we’re looking at a film adapted from a piece of classic Aussie literature by British writer Jack Thorne, who wrote the latest version of The Secret Garden to hit cinemas and screens, and who also has two other feature-length adaptations this year alone. We’ll definitely get to those at some point before the year’s out, but for right now, we’re dealing with this… and honestly, it’s got a lot of the same issues as Secret Garden.

Saturday 3 October 2020

Scream, Queen! My Nightmare On Elm Street (2020) - Movie Review

Before getting into this particular film, I feel like I need to give some background context for myself, as this is a documentary centred on a film I have some history with. A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge is one of the first movies I ever reviewed. Back when I was still trying to make YouTube my career, I chose this as my second review subject. My take on it was… rough. It was done back when I was still well-ingrained in the ‘angry critic’ style that was big at the time, and honestly, looking back at my strained attempts to discuss the gay aspects of the film make me cringe so hard that, at some point, I actually took it down from my YouTube channel.

Friday 2 October 2020

Antebellum (2020) - Movie Review

Bear with me on this one, because I’m feeling a bit apprehensive about writing a review for this particular movie. As I have been making a regular habit of mentioning around here, I am a suburban white dude from Sydney, Australia, and while I don’t shy away from discussing rather grisly topics over the course of these reviews… gotta admit, being able to do justice to the American original sin that is slavery has always felt like one of my blind spots. I mean, I’m as far away from knowing the first-hand black experience as it’s possible to get, and I have certain fears that my takes about a given film to do with the topic might end up trivialising this aspect of that experience. And that's something I really want to be careful about when discussing Antebellum, which mishandles the topic worse than any other film I've covered on here.

Thursday 1 October 2020

The High Note (2020) - Movie Review

Not even a full twelve months after landing on my Best Of 2019 list, director Nisha Ganatra has already delivered with another serving of industry comedy-drama, switching this time from world of professional comedy to a look at the music industry. While I could unfortunately argue that this isn’t as fiery, or even as funny, as Late Night (and of course, I will do exactly that in a bit), it’s still a solid feature that puts the ‘soul’ in ‘cinematic soul food’.