Monday 31 May 2021

Songbird (2021) - Movie Review

Making a film intrinsically about COVID-19, while COVID-19 is still a thing and still a danger to public health, isn’t an inherently bad idea. All art is reflective of the era in which it was made, and film is no exception; knowing how much the pandemic has fucked up the industry in regards to getting work done and released, working around the conditions involved shouldn’t automatically be seen as a bad thing. I’m not saying that exploiting the situation for profit isn’t shady as all fuck; just that not every production in this space should be seen as such. At least, not until it proves itself to be in that vein.

After what happened with Locked Down, I went into this other film set during COVID lockdown (in a roundabout way, which I’ll get to) with far lower expectations. Other than hearing a fair bit of negative press about it since it first released in the U.S. in December, I’ve resigned myself to the notion that Host was going to be a rare example of a film made in extraordinary circumstances that was itself an extraordinary work of art. I’ve been seeing the word “tasteless” floating around a lot in discussions about Songbird, hence my little spiel about the supposed ethics problems with making a film about a pandemic while said pandemic is still happening, so I was ready for the worst of it. And while that's unfortunately what I got, it wasn't in the form I was expecting.

Saturday 29 May 2021

Finding You (2021) - Movie Review

Sometimes, my habit of keeping track of names attached to movies gets me interested in new releases for all the wrong reasons. Much like with Fatale, The Unholy, and Kidnapped, I gravitated towards this Ireland-set romantic comedy not because of its cast, or its setting, or any of its actual content, but rather because I’m familiar with one of the filmmakers for something… infamous, let’s say. And in the case of Finding You, we have director Brian Baugh, who those with a hate-boner for PureFlix (let’s not be too hypocritical about such things, *ahem*) might remember from I’m Not Ashamed, a religious film about the Columbine school shooting that treated the subject matter with the nuance of a monster truck at a divorce hearing. I won’t say I was expecting more ‘God vs. those darn vidya gammers’, but I won’t say that primed me for good things either.

And in a way, this has a fair bit in common with I’m Not Ashamed, at least in terms of structure. See, that film was mainly focused on one of the victims of the shooting, but it also involved a lot of other shit that didn’t really need to be there (especially with how leaden a hefty amount of the dialogue turned out, in typical PureFlix fashion). Finding You has the same issue. It starts out with violinist Finley (Rose Reid) taking a semester abroad in a small Irish town, but there’s quite a few subplots bordering that one idea.

There’s also the inclusion of young movie star Beckett (Jedidiah Goodacre, easily the most Amish-sounding name I’ve ever encountered in these reviews) filming a movie nearby, the resulting romance, the bed-and-breakfast they both stay at by sheer coincidence (I’ll refrain from using that word again, lest I use it to describe every plot development here), Vanessa Redgrave as a crotchety old woman that everyone in the town hates for… reasons, showbiz drama surrounding Beckett’s public life, an old drunk who plays a mean fiddle, Finley going on a graveyard scavenger hunt using her brother’s drawings, etc.

It’s a two-hour film that certainly feels like it, but oddly enough, that didn’t end up rubbing against my pre-established short attention span for such things. It’s more that the film is packed to the gills, and it feels like a lot of trimming could have been done to make the dramatic moments ring through a bit clearer, but it isn’t actively dull to sit through in the moment. It’s quite cheesy in places, but like the scenes showing the film-within-a-film that Beckett is starring in, quite a bit of that is deliberate (right down to the Asylum-level effects work on the dragons therein). How deliberate, though, is up for debate, given the repeated line of “things aren’t always as they appear”, in a film where the opposite couldn’t possibly be more apt.

But again, I have no real hate for this thing. As much as their chemistry is rocky in a lot of places, I liked the two main leads, the scenes set in the town pub were welcoming as they should be, and for as Macaulay Culkin as Beckett’s professional arrangements are, I kinda dug the comparisons made between small town and Tinsel Town when it comes to rumours and public perception dictating how people are treated. Even with everything that’s happened over the last five years, the degree to which I got into the depiction of Beckett’s behind the scenes drama was rather unexpected. Shame the same can’t be said for the third-act break-up, as this has a particularly egregious example.

It’s a bit of an Irish stew of a film, but credit to the makers for giving a damn about what went into it and how smoothly it goes down. There’s nothing groundbreaking here as far as ‘big fish in a small pond’ storytelling, but for a relatively low-key tourist flick, it’s very pleasant and didn’t drag at any point, even with the overstuffed narrative on display. I wouldn’t say this is worth seeking out, but if it pops up on streaming at some point in the future, it’s a decent serving of scenic comfort food.

Friday 28 May 2021

June Again (2021) - Movie Review

Is it unfair to keep comparing this to The Father? I mean, they’re both films predominantly about the personal and familial effects of dementia, they both made it to Aussie cinemas this year, and they have diametrically opposite methodologies and tones when it comes to the subject matter. With just how highly I rate The Father, it seems like this film can’t help but underperform next to that level of efficacy. But no, I’m going to keep that contained in this paragraph, because while this isn’t as effective as The Father, it has more than enough of its own engagement value to make its mark.

Tuesday 25 May 2021

Fatale (2021) - Movie Review

Oh goodie, an erotic thriller has made it to cinemas. I get the feeling that I could have just put up that single sentence as the entire review, as that’s pretty much all that one needs to know about it in order to gauge whether they’ll be at all interested in it. And even then, as are the trappings of the genre, I doubt there’s a lot of legitimate entertainment value to be gotten out of a film like this. However, while I would be more than happy to proclaim a new ironic favourite, this film can’t even get to that level of quality. Or, at the very least, it insists it’s above that level of quality.

Monday 24 May 2021

Locked Down (2021) - Movie Review

I was raring up to like this movie quite a bit just from genre association alone. A rom-com/heist flick made and set during COVID lockdown, after films like Host proved that there’s pathos to be wrung out of the timeliness, with a plentiful cast of actors I’ve grown to love over the last few years; what could possibly go wrong? Well, in short, just about everything, but I’m not exactly in the mood to show this thing the mercy of brevity.

Sunday 23 May 2021

Without Remorse (2021) - Movie Review

The second team-up between Italian crime aficionado Stefano Sollima and revisionist Western master Taylor Sheridan finds them both dealing with familiar territory, while also refining their approach from Sicario: Day Of The Soldado. Like Soldado, it is a particularly grim look at American military efforts, and like the original Sicario, a lot of it focuses on how one soldier becomes twisted at the whims of their handlers.

Monday 17 May 2021

The United States Vs. Billie Holiday (2021) - Movie Review

I have a vivid memory of the first time I heard Strange Fruit. Well, first time I heard it in its entirety, as my first exposure to it at all was through Kanye West’s Yeezus… but let’s try and ignore that for the time being. I found myself curious about the sample choice from Blood On The Leaves, did some quick Googling, and found the Nina Simone version on YouTube. Specifically, this one, and the fact that I remember it being this one is down to how harrowing that experience was. The grotesque imagery in the lyrics, the pain and occasional sneer in Simone’s vocals, the photo montage of actual lynch victims; everyone else can argue about the phrase ‘white guilt’ all they damn well please, but I really have no other way to describe the rotting feeling in my stomach when all was sung and done.

I’m starting out with this because, upon first seeing the trailer for this film about the originator Billie Holiday, I felt tremors of that gut rot from years past. As such, the notion of a film about Holiday being targeted by the U.S. government over that song certainly grabbed my interest, and when Andra Day as Billie sings it herself, staring daggers directly at the camera… yeah, it’s still one of the most powerful pieces of music ever penned. Andra Day doing her own singing, with a solid resemblance to the real Billie’s jazzy affectations, adds to the effect, as does her acting chops in depicting the final decade in Billie’s storied life… kind of.

Friday 14 May 2021

Every Breath You Take (2021) - Movie Review

It’s almost embarrassing having to admit that I’ve seen this movie. Both for myself, in that I paid money to sit through this thing, and for those involved, as this should only exist as a blip on each actor’s respective radar, not something to be remembered or directly attributed to them. But I’ve made it this far writing reviews for every new film I watch, and I’m not about to give this the satisfaction of breaking that trend, so let’s get into one of the snooziest dumpster fires I’ve seen in years.

Thursday 13 May 2021

Spiral: From The Book Of Saw (2021) - Movie Review

I’m probably going to make a habit of saying this over the next few months, now that the COVID shuffle has begun to ease up and all the big franchise pictures from last year are finally primed for release, but it’s especially true for this film in particular: I have been hyped for this for well over a year. The Saw series remains my all-time favourite movie franchise, Saw III is one of my all-time favourite films, and for as much of a remix as it was, the Spierig Brothers’ Jigsaw was a satisfying effort. I look forward to new Saw movies the same way Nintendo kids look forward to new Zelda games; I hunger for shit like this.

Monday 10 May 2021

Minari (2021) - Movie Review

I’ve gotten into this point in previous reviews, but for the uninitiated, let me just get it out there: There are few things I find duller to (personally) sit through than films that critique or otherwise examine the ideal of the American Dream. Every time I see a new film dealing in this subject matter, it feels like I have to incentivise my own brain into paying attention; American Made had this effect on me, same with Home Sweet Hell and, to a lesser extent, Gold, so this seems to be regardless of a film’s individual quality as entertainment.

I just… don’t care about the idea, as even all the way over here in Australia, I was taught from a fairly early age that the American Dream is a fantasy not worth chasing. As such, I think I’ve developed a blind spot to it as a regular filmgoer; unless it’s told in a really out-there fashion (i.e. slathered in genre engagement and commentary on other things like with Knives Out), it just doesn’t register for me.

Tuesday 4 May 2021

The Unholy (2021) - Movie Review

It was inevitable that we’d get to this point. After working as part of the DisneyToon machine in the 2000s, and breaking out into the mainstream to properly embarrass Disney licenses in the 2010s, it was only a matter of time before Evan Spiliotopoulos stopped merely writing unnecessary stories and started directing his own. Admittedly, I wasn’t expecting that transition to take the form of a Raimi-produced horror film, but seeing him attached as director to a new movie still isn’t as shocking as it should be. What is quite shocking, however, is how much this film is already starting to sour in my memory less than an hour after watching it. And my thoughts on it weren’t exactly glowing to begin with.

Monday 3 May 2021

Willy's Wonderland (2021) - Movie Review

... Well, that’s a horrifying tagline.

Anyway, as soon as news first hit about this movie, with Nicholas Cage beating the holy hell out of animatronics in a former party restaurant for kids, the Internet was ablaze with comparisons between the premise of the film and the premise of the long-running video game series Five Nights At Freddy’s. To the point where that comparison seems to be the only thing anyone can talk about when it comes to the film itself. Now, I’m not exactly known for the hottest of takes in these reviews, and I admittedly did decide to check it out because a FNAF-esque movie experience is right up my alley, but do I really want to sit here and write out the same shit every other critic has repeated ad nauseum? Well... sort of.

Saturday 1 May 2021

Bigfoot Family (2021) - Movie Review

Oh goodie, another movie from nWave Studios, the people who thought implied dog rape in a kids film was a good idea. Yeah, I was not looking forward to this one, and if it weren’t for the fact that this made it to Netflix rather than cinemas this time around, I’d be looking forward to it a whole lot less. But thankfully, this isn’t anywhere near as heinous as The Queen’s Corgi. Admittedly, that means it’s closer to the studio’s average of bland, inoffensive bargain-bin material, but I’ll take that any day over whatever fresh hell they tried to pull last time.