Monday, 26 September 2022

Moonage Daydream (2022) - Movie Review

Like with any other genre, documentaries tend to stick to a formula, especially biographical ones: Go through the subject’s life in chronological order, from childhood to the early days to their initial brush with fame to their eventual solidification as someone worth making a documentary about. Include interviews with people revolving around that person, whether they knew them personally or looked up to them as a fan, show some behind-the-scenes footage of the person hard at work in their field of choice, maybe throw in some historical context to bring out the real worth of their efforts in the larger scheme of things; chances are you’ve seen something just like that at least once before.

Moonage Daydream isn’t a typical documentary. Coming from Brett Morgen, the mastermind behind Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck, it’d be a shock if it were. In fact, when Morgen offers up is so atypical, I’d almost question if this really qualifies as a ‘documentary’ in the strictest definition. While it most certainly offers a look into the life and works of David Bowie, this is more focused on aesthetics than historical documents. Mood rather than facts. It bends the conventions of film around its subject, rather than cutting the latter up to conform to the former. And in the result of this Technicolor smog cloud, Morgen offers up something that offers a far better understanding of Bowie than a simpler documentary would ever be able to grasp at.

Sunday, 25 September 2022

Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022) - Movie Review

It’s been a while since a film last caught my attention purely on the basis of its cast. Like, beyond anything to actually do with the film’s contents, I knew I had to check this one out in the cinemas based purely on who’s in it. I admittedly don’t know everyone here; I hadn’t even heard of Industry or Generation before doing my usual Googling, so I didn’t know Myha’la Herrold or Chase Sui Wonders (although, credit where it’s due, I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for them from now on). Everyone else, though? Not only is it cool just seeing this cast in a new movie on its own, but holy shit, the specific casting is downright brilliant.

Saturday, 24 September 2022

Blaze (2022) - Movie Review

(cw: rape, childhood trauma)

The story of this film is deceptively simple, and truth be told, not a lot technically ‘happens’ over the course of 100-or-so minutes. On her way home from school, 13-year-old Blaze (Julia Savage) witnesses Hannah (Yael Stone) being raped and killed in an alleyway by Jake (Josh Lawson). In the midst of the trauma seeing such an event triggered in her, and retreating into her own mind as a result, she has been asked to testify in court as a witness to the assault.

It’s a rather straight-forward dramatic premise that could easily fit into a short film, which both director/writer Del Kathryn Barton and co-writer Huna Amweero have more experience with over anything feature-length. However, in the process of making it into a feature-length production, Barton has managed to create something that looks entirely unlike any other Australian film I have ever encountered, nor any coming-of-age story from here or anywhere else.

Friday, 23 September 2022

Flux Gourmet (2022) - Movie Review

Just in case it wasn’t weird enough that The Invitation and After Ever Happy, two films that fall under the same niche category of ‘hilariously awful fanfiction as cinema’, are both in cinemas at the same time as I’m writing this, we now have a film that fits into another niche that would’ve been weird enough to have one feature representing it in theatres. Much like Crimes Of The Future, the latest from Peter Strickland (who also did the excellent Duke Of Burgundy some years back) is heavily fixated on performance art culture and the politics surrounding it, refracted through the director’s unique sensibilities. However, where Cronenberg used it as a vehicle for his usual musings on the limits of the human body, what Strickland has in mind here is far less heady than that. It is downright silly, in fact.

Saturday, 17 September 2022

Crimes Of The Future (2022) - Movie Review

Between the more feminist offerings coming out of Europe like Titane and Hatching, and heir to the throne Brandon Cronenberg’s Possessor, it makes a lot of sense that King David would choose now to return to the genre that iconified him. While his recent run of more conventional, if cerebral, dramas has certainly produced some winners (A Dangerous Method took a second viewing for me to fully appreciate it, but appreciate it I do), there really is no replacing the kind of fleshy, practical effects-driven insanity he used to specialise in. As those aforementioned films have shown, there's certainly still a market for it. And even though this is the product of a script David wrote back in 2003, it’s only ‘dated’ in the sense that he is indeed returning to his glory days. His unsettling, gross, endlessly fascinating glory days.

Thursday, 15 September 2022

After Ever Happy (2022) - Movie Review

Y’know, at the fourth film in, I was honestly expecting the bottom to drop out of this series. Even with how well the After films have been doing at getting increasingly worse, yet increasingly more fun to watch, with each instalment, I thought it would get to a point where the melodrama couldn’t be pushed any harder and we’d start seeing diminishing returns. I mean, even with film series I like for reasons beyond laughing at their expense, it’s rare to see one last this long and still maintain that key engagement factor. And for a little while, it indeed looked like this was where things would start petering out. But then it decided to floor it into a brick wall and further the series trajectory to unleash what is, somehow, the new worst and new funniest entry in the series.

Wednesday, 14 September 2022

The Invitation (2022) - Movie Review

Under normal circumstances, writing about a film like this that hinges on a plot twist would be difficult. As much as I gush over the films I like, and trash the ones I don’t, I try and be careful not to get too specific about what happens in the story. The last thing I want is to ruin the experience for someone else, even if it’s with a film I personally don’t care for. However. Seeing as this film has been marketed so poorly that both its trailer, and the first paragraph of its Wikipedia page (not even the plot synopsis, but the full page), give it clean away, I don’t particularly feel like putting in more effort than the people responsible for bringing this to the public. Although, as we’ll get into, that will be a familiar sensation throughout this review regardless.

Tuesday, 6 September 2022

Beast (2022) - Movie Review

I really like carrots. I admit that I don’t eat as healthy as I probably should, but carrots would likely be a foundation for my diet if I were to make any major overhauls. That slight sweetness combined with the crunch when it’s raw and fresh; it’s definitely one of my favourite healthier foods.

But that’s not to say that I could happily live off just carrots. Eating one or two on their own as a snack, sure, but when I sit down for dinner, I’m not likely to just have a plate piled high with raw carrots to eat. They’re good, but there needs to be something more to it. Seasoning, a particular cooking method, some other vegetables and proteins; anything to make it into more of a complete meal.

No, this has not suddenly become Mahan’s Munchies or anything like that. I’m bringing this up because I have a similar attitude to survival movies. Survival as a character drive in a film can be great, and is usually built into the more visceral genres like action and horror. But I’m starting to realise that a film that is just centred on characters surviving a perilous scenario, with all the scripting and production focus being put towards that one aspect, doesn’t do much for me as a viewer or a critic. So you can imagine how not-glowing my review for this survival thriller will be.

Saturday, 3 September 2022

Good Luck To You, Leo Grande (2022) - Movie Review

It’s quite impressive how well this film turned out. I feel it’s important to open with that because there are quite a few things here that, if the production team weren’t as synchronised as they are, could’ve turned this into a complete shambles.

Friday, 2 September 2022

Where The Crawdads Sing (2022) - Movie Review

When I first saw the trailer for this film, I had two immediate reactions to it: Feeling like I had seen the whole film already just from the trailer, and that the film was going to be a lot if that was even remotely accurate. It’s a coming-of-age survival story, it’s a romance, it’s a parable on the Other, it’s about prejudice, and it’s also a courtroom murder mystery; even at two hours long, this is already looking overstuffed. And indeed, there’s a lot going on here… but that only makes it even more astounding that it ends up as insubstantial as it does.

Saturday, 27 August 2022

Bullet Train (2022) - Movie Review

Over the last few years, I’ve been riding 87North’s dick pretty damn hard. David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, ever since they gave Keanu Reeves a turbo boost with the first John Wick, have been remarkably consistent in delivering some of the most exciting action flicks in recent memory. If the term ‘elevated horror’ is allowed to be in common parlance, then what these guys do has to be called elevated action. As such, I was quite jazzed about the chance to see Leitch in the director’s chair again. But while it’s definitely fun, it seems that even he couldn’t keep up his enviable momentum forever; he had to hit a lag eventually.

Thursday, 25 August 2022

The Black Phone (2022) - Movie Review

Ethan Hawke is one of my favourite actors working today. While he certainly has the skill to back up that kind of acclaim, my love for the guy’s work comes mainly out of how insanely eclectic he is. The Northman, Cut Throat City, The Truth, Stockholm, Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets, The Magnificent Seven, Predestination, Boyhood; not only is the man up for pretty much anything a director could possibly throw at him, but he’s also willing to go into unexpected international corners to spread the love around. So when news hit of him being cast as the villain in a horror flick, hell yeah, I was on board for that… but while Hawke certainly delivered, it’s a testament to just how good this film is that he ends up being at the lower end of this film’s positives.

Monday, 15 August 2022

Thor: Love And Thunder (2022) - Movie Review

After languishing as the dark horse of the main four Avengers of the MCU, Thor seems to have found a firm footing and identity thanks to director Taika Waititi. Namely, that he is the comic relief of the team. This has admittedly been a thing with him since the Kenneth Branagh film, but with Taika’s unique brand of social cringe, it effectively smoothed itself out and made for a high point of the already-impressive Phase Three with Thor: Ragnarok. Naturally, much like Christopher McQuarrie sticking around for the more recent Mission: Impossible films, bringing him back for another trip with the space Viking is a good move. And sure enough, it’s most certainly a Taika Waititi film… although I wouldn’t particularly blame certain audiences for wishing it was more than that.

Friday, 12 August 2022

Nope (2022) - Movie Review

One of the more oft-repeated phrases about the nature of comedy is that it is more-or-less a matter of ‘tragedy + time’. After enough time has passed since an awful event, that is when it is possible to see the more humourous side of something that, in the moment, would’ve been too shocking to exhume such mirth from. But I’m not sure that is really the case, at least nowadays. We collectively have so much access to visual and auditory information, and have subsequently learnt to digest it at such a rate, that we have surpassed the idea that the passing of time has anything to do with the ability to make light of tragic events. I first got that impression when I heard my first joke about Michael Jackson’s death, which was on the same day it broke the news cycle; unless the bracket of time is measured in mere minutes or hours, that doesn’t appear to be accurate anymore.

Instead, I’d argue that it’s a matter of distance rather than time. Temporal distance can be a part of that, sure, but as far as turning something horrible into the kind of material that someone would willingly indulge in, it can be a cinch when there’s enough distance between the subject and the observer. If it happened to a stranger, or someone you know more by reputation than through any personal contact, making light of it is far easier to do than if, say, it happened to someone you know more personally or, more pointedly, if it happened to you.

Now, why am I bringing this up when talking about this film in particular? Am I making the same mistake that the Oscars made back in 2017? Well, hopefully not. Rather, I’m getting into this for two other reasons. One, because whenever I get to discussing Peele’s films, my writing turns out a lot denser than usual, so I’m just setting the tone as best I can. And two, because what truly makes this film horrifying is in how it examines that subject/observer relationship, both when it comes to our entertainment and our everyday lives.

Tuesday, 12 July 2022

Elvis (2022) - Movie Review

Baz Luhrmann. The Aussie king of camp. The Man from Showy River.

I don’t like Baz Luhrmann’s films.

His woeful adaptation of The Great Gatsby marks the first time I ever left a cinema actually angry at having wasted my time and money on a particular film. Romeo + Juliet was the first time a specific adaptation choice (the whole ‘Sword-branded guns’ thing) actively annoyed me. Australia was the first time I discovered how much test screenings can interfere with the creative process in rather peculiar ways (i.e. The Drover was originally meant to die, but test audiences didn’t want to see that happen to Hugh Jackman, so… that changed).

Yeah, he’s responsible for a lot of personal milestones, and none of them positive. The man’s insistence on absolute bombast constantly gets between him and whatever the hell point he thinks he’s making in his films, and even as someone who enjoys the patently ridiculous, Baz keeps testing my patience in just how loud he plays every aspect of his films.

But even with all of that in mind, one thing I have always maintained, alongside my utter contempt for the bulk of the man’s filmography (Australia and The Great Gatsby are easily on the shortlist for worst films I’ve ever seen, period), is that he is talented. He knows how to put a film together, he’s a properly unique voice in Australian cinema, and for as much as I personally can’t stand his work, I can at least understand why others would. Hell, I’ll even give him credit for Strictly Ballroom, which is a genuinely good film and something of a mission statement for Baz’s entire career to follow: Play to the crowds, don’t worry about the committees. It’s just that, with everything since Strictly Ballroom, that talent has been squandered on increasingly misguided and frequently exasperating storytelling decisions.

Suffice to say, I wasn’t really looking forward to his latest release. I may be growing more and more comfortable with lengthier films, but considering how much I just can’t with this guy to begin with, sitting down for a near-three hour presentation is one of those moments when this job of mine actually feels like work. Or, at least, that’s what I was expecting. In what is raring to be the biggest surprise of 2022 (pleasant ones, at least), this is the first Baz Luhrmann film I’ve genuinely enjoyed since Strictly Ballroom.

Sunday, 10 July 2022

Minions: The Rise Of Gru (2022) - Movie Review

Illumination might be in trouble. While they’ve certainly found their lane with a mixture of old-school animated slapstick and embracing the popularity of villains, their most recent features have been the epitome of diminishing returns. Their take on The Grinch was okay, but not exactly going to replace Jim Carrey anytime soon, the Secret Life Of Pets sequel was closer to a pilot for a TV show than its own film, and Sing 2 showed a noticeable drop from the rousing effect of the original. At this point, it’s easy to argue that the studio should stick with their prime cash cow (the Minions), since their ability to deliver with other franchises isn’t working out… but as their latest has shown, even that is in question.

Saturday, 2 July 2022

Men (2022) - Movie Review

I love fucked-up movies. To me, there are few feelings I love more than when I’ve just finished watching a movie, and my first instinct is to scream “What the fuck did I just watch?!” while sporting a massive grin on my face. I’ve looked at quite a few films on this blog that have genuinely gotten that reaction out of me, like The Greasy Strangler, Malignant, Where The Dead Go To Die, and Titane, and the experiences I had watching them for the first time are memories I hold onto quite closely. But when the latest film by Alex Garland, whose last two films were certified sci-fi king hits, popped up in a cinema close(ish) to me, I can’t say I was expecting it to join that illustrious collection. But sure enough, here we are.

Tuesday, 21 June 2022

365 Days: This Day (2022) - Movie Review

I’m not going to say that I was looking forward to this film in any reasonable fashion; after how disastrously its predecessor turned out, that’d just be dishonest of me. But between the thoughtful examination of sexual liberation in X, and me re-examining my understanding of films primarily targeted at women off the back of How To Please A Woman… I’m at least open to the idea that this film could be a little easier to sit through. And to a degree, it is… but only in one specific aspect. Everything else has somehow taken a turn for the even worse.

Monday, 20 June 2022

The Exorcism Of God (2022) - Movie Review

Well, here’s a little curio that I stumbled upon. While skimming through YouTube for new film releases to review, I came across the trailer for this film, which included the scene of a demonic Jesus jumpscaring a priest. I am nothing if not easily intrigued, so I decided to check it out. I went in expecting something campy and, considering the over-saturation of the sub-genre, been-there-done-that, and that is definitely what I got… along with an especially foul taste in my mouth.

Friday, 17 June 2022

Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers (2022) - Movie Review

Along with being a certified cinematic classic, and one of my personal favourite films, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? has become quite influential in how modern tentpole cinema is marketed nowadays. From Ready Player One to Ralph Breaks The Internet, right down to Avengers: Endgame, the big studios have been banking on productions that exist primarily for crossover potential between the different properties that they own. Except, while its position as an intercompany crossover is certainly part of the appeal (seeing Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse on-screen together still carries a certain childish thrill to it even today), Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was about much more than just the crossovers. Up to this point, it seemed like it would be one of many Hollywood successes where all the wrong lessons were taken as to why it was successful, just so modern studios can try (and repeatedly fail) to recapture that magic. Well, until this film, that is.

Wednesday, 15 June 2022

Jackass 4.5 (2022) - Movie Review

Well… I said I’d review this when it came out, and while I’m a little late to the party on this one, I’m holding up my end of the bargain. Except how does one review what is essentially behind-the-scenes footage combined with B-roll that’s been pressed into a feature length? I try not to pat myself on the back too much for what I do around here, but being able to squeeze out a lengthy-ish and informative review about this shit deserves credit (and that goes for everyone else who’s managed to do the same).

Tuesday, 7 June 2022

How To Please A Woman (2022) - Movie Review

I don’t have the best history with ‘chick flicks’. Not just with the ones I have reviewed on here, but with my general attitude towards them as well. In the past, I’ve lambasted quite a few features that fall into this heading for being empty wish fulfilment fantasies, which I perceived as talking down to their intended female audience with how contrived and basically gutless they came across. But then look at how many power fantasies I’ve reviewed that cater to the more masculine set, which arguably suffer from the exact same deficiencies, where I don’t tend to make such judgement calls. Or, at least, don’t make them nearly as often. If I had to guess, I think one last sliver of influence from the Nostalgia Critic is hanging on for dear life, as I initially got quite a bit of my perspective on the sub-genre from him, and… well, I’ve been doing this critical gig for many years now; what is a teacher if not someone to grow beyond?

I’m bringing this up both because this is something I’ve been wrestling with for a while, especially when looking at films like this, and because what appeals to women and the futility in making any blanket statements on the matter are some of the central themes of this film in particular. It’s an Aussie romantic comedy with a very Aussie approach to all things sex, where the frankness and lack of flinching about what gets discussed makes for quite refreshing material.

Saturday, 4 June 2022

Last Seen Alive (2022) - Movie Review

The latest B-movie product starring Gerard Butler starts out with a decent enough idea. Will (Butler) and his wife Lisa (Jaimie Alexander) pull into a gas station, and while Will is filling up the car, Lisa… disappears. With nothing to go on, and a lot of hard scepticism in his way, Will sets out to find her. For an action-thriller, it’s a very Neesonsploitation premise, but the framing leans more into the ‘thriller’ side of that genre heading. A loved one vanishing (heh) into thin air, not having a clue where they went and not getting any help; even on paper, it sounds exhausting, so surely, it’s gotta work on the big screen, right? Well, it’s not as if this is the first time an American version of The Vanishing didn’t work out.

Saturday, 28 May 2022

Firestarter (2022) - Movie Review

The 1984 film version of Stephen King’s Firestarter is… okay. It doesn’t reach the oft-underappreciated heights of the better movie adaptations, nor does it succumb to the amazingly goofy lows of those ‘90s TV miniseries. It mainly gets by on the personality of its cast, especially Drew Barrymore and George C. Scott, and while the treatment of its superpower-adjacent thrills was a little bland (especially compared to how bombastic King adaptations regularly get), there was enough on offer to make the whole package watchable. With how much of an upgrade more recent King adaptations have been, the idea of remaking this particular feature seemed understandable enough; there’s a lot left to work with. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was a feature that would feel this much like I’d been licking drywall for an hour and a half.

Friday, 27 May 2022

Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness (2022) - Movie Review

Bryan Singer’s X-Men changed superhero cinema in a big way. It proved that not only could comic book characters survive and thrive on the big screen in the new millennium, but what makes them worth reading about can effectively be translated into something watchable; this is something that superhero flicks struggled with for years prior. But I’d argue that Sam Raimi did just as much, if not more, for the sub-genre than Singer did.

Where Singer bent the edges of those characters to make them fit, Raimi instead made the cinematic artform bend to the dynamic visuals of the printed page. His Spider-Man trilogy remains a touchstone for the sub-genre to this day, and in a lot of ways, it reached heights that most of the MCU hasn’t been able to yet. So… yeah, hearing that he’d be helming a new capeshit feature had me wanting to see him come back on top, after spending the last several years either directing forgettable fluff or producing some particularly egregious horror movies.

Monday, 23 May 2022

After Yang (2022) - Movie Review

A film that gets described as a “metaphysical science fiction drama” in its Wikipedia page is like a siren call to me. And the story attached to it certainly doesn’t disappoint from that perspective, exploring what happens to a family when their adopted son passes away. Well, not so much ‘passes away’ as he shuts down and won’t turn back on, as this is set in a near-future where a company exists that basically sells artificial siblings wholesale, and said child (the titular Yang, played by Justin H. Min) is a ‘technosapien’ that couple Jake (Colin Farrell) and Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith) originally bought so that their other adopted child Mika (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja) had someone she could learn about Chinese culture from.

Thursday, 12 May 2022

The Northman (2022) - Movie Review

After two certified winners with The VVitch and The Lighthouse, writer/director Robert Eggers has cracked his artistic ambitions wide open with his latest. Shedding his New England aesthetics like a snakeskin, he now sets the stage for an epic historical revenge myth, co-written by himself and Icelandic scribe Sjón and itself based on the Scandinavian legend of Amleth. Yes, for the classics nerds amongst my readership, this is the same legend that inspired fellow classics nerd William Shakespeare in the creation of Hamlet. This film is the culmination of just about every storytelling idea and mood Eggers has been chipping away at over his career thus far, and what results from that is a production that redefines the word ‘visceral’.

Monday, 2 May 2022

Ambulance (2022) - Movie Review

Something weird has happened concerning Michael Bay’s reputation in recent years. After spending most of his career as a memetic punchline, the release of his last film 6 Underground seemed to spark a re-examination of his career against the larger Hollywood system. From what I’ve been able to gander, it seems that, in the wake of so much mainstream homogenisation of stories and even filmmakers, to the point where a lot of product can feel like grey mush shoved next to more grey mush, Michael Bay now feels like a breath of fresh air. There’s no mistaking his films for the work of anyone else, for better and for worse, and as an admitted auteurist, it is quite fascinating looking at this man’s body of work and seeing just how… fucking weird a lot of it is.

And I’ll admit it: I’ve taken part in that re-examination as well. After Pain & Gain showed flashes of a genuine talent underneath all the sensory extremes and bone-headed characterisation, and 6 Underground proving to be the most entertaining he’s been in ­years, I feel like I’ve also come around on the guy after spending quite a bit of my own time clowning on him. Some of that clowning is still justified, though, and the man is still on probation for his work on 2021’s crowning dumpster fire Songbird, but all the same, I found myself… looking forward to this movie?

Monday, 25 April 2022

Morbius (2022) - Movie Review

Once again, the Sony side of the Marvel cinematic landscape has released a film that has garnered… mixed reactions, let’s say. Much like with the first Venom, it has become yet another invented battleground for casual audiences to rail against The Critics™ (forgetting that we are all critics at the end of the day), with lashings of terrible official write-ups while the #MorbiusSweep movement… honestly, even in these post-irony days, I can’t tell if this is just a meme or if people are actually getting into this film. Unlike the first Venom, though, you won’t find me ‘picking a side’ in this particular pissing match. I don’t really get the intense backlash this has faced (well, mostly don't, but we'll get to that), nor do I think it’s an underrated gem worth white-knighting for. It’s just… okay.

Sunday, 24 April 2022

The Bad Guys (2022) - Movie Review

Time for another unorthodox heist film, so soon after the anti-heist of The Duke, and I was quite torn initially going into this. On one hand, it’s the latest DreamWorks animated release, and if nothing else, they also manage to provide interesting material to dig into, even if it doesn’t always hold up alongside its competition. But on the other hand, we have writer Etan Cohen, whose rather inconsistent track record reached a serious nadir a few years back with his work on the unbearably smug Holmes & Watson. As much as I love heist films, this really could go either way and… well, it kinda goes for both of them?

Friday, 22 April 2022

Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022) - Movie Review

At the tail-end of 2016, I reviewed a film called Swiss Army Man. It remains one of the most surreal features I’ve ever covered on this blog, and I loved the absolute hell out of it… although, by its own admission, it’s most certainly not going to work for all audiences. It’s a cult film made by decidedly cult filmmakers, and considering it found its way mainly into the more arthouse cinemas in my area, Daniels (the writing/directing team of Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) seemed destined to stay on the fringe. Then their latest collaboration was released, to the most mainstream cinema local to me, and is seemingly adored by everyone. And what makes that fact even more astounding is that this film that has caught on like wildfire? It’s not even that much of a change-up from what these guys usually get up to.

Saturday, 16 April 2022

The Duke (2022) - Movie Review

A little over a year ago, I found myself in the midst of quarantine brain and, in a desperate attempt to return things to what can charitably be called ‘normality’ as we know it around here, decided to pick out a random film that was showing at the time and just… get the hell out of the house for a bit. Said film was Blackbird, an ensemble film that, while I honestly haven’t thought much about it since publishing my initial review of it, I can at least look back on with some fondness for not totally wasting my time.

And here I am again, in need of getting myself out of a static rut I have found myself in of late, and once again deciding to essentially throw a dart at the Now Showing list as an excuse to get back to work and (more importantly) get back into a stable routine. And once again, I find myself looking at a film by Roger Michell, who also made Blackbird, and… well, let’s just say that my previous criticisms about not feeling as strongly about the material don’t apply here. Hell, if I’m being honest, there’s a lot about this that I like.

Thursday, 14 April 2022

The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent (2022) - Movie Review

Time for another preview screening, this time courtesy of StudioCanal… and man, after how much he crushed it last year, I leapt at the chance to check out the next Nicolas Cage flick. When you’ve spent so many years (decades, even) being such a singular talent that you’re just as animated as any one of the roles you’ve taken up, then yeah, why not star in a movie where you’re performing as yourself? Sure, there’s films like The Weather Man, Joe, and the previously-reviewed Pig, which showed certain facets of his real-life persona, but this is as direct as it gets. And the end result, while consciously made up of a lot of familiar parts, is quite mesmerising in that way that only Cage-starring films can manage.

Wednesday, 13 April 2022

X (2022) - Movie Review

Sex and horror are strange bedfellows. As types of entertainment that exist outside of the mainstream’s safe zone, they’re inexorably linked, but they also have an uncomfortable relationship with each other. One of the most referred-to stereotypes in horror movies, and particularly slasher movies, is that if a character has sex on-screen, or has ever had sex in their fictional life, they are going to die. Films like the Friday The 13th series, where it seemed like Jason Voorhees had a sixth sense for people fucking nearby (an idea that became literal with Jason X).

Now, while there’s a general understanding that, yeah, that’s the actions and motives of the villain, so it’s not implicitly meant to be a viewpoint that should be adhered to… well, when it gets to the point where that stereotype of ‘sluts die’ is something that gets brought up consistently not just with discussions of older films, but is brought back in a lot of modern meta-horror features as well, you have to start wondering if that repetition is to acknowledge how regressive that worldview is, or to reinforce it. See also: The black man being the first to die in a horror film.

Tuesday, 12 April 2022

Loveland (Expired) (2022) - Movie Review

Independent Aussie sci-fi films are quite the rarity, which is quite a shame as an Australian filmgoer who loves sci-fi and also loves supporting (good) local product. As such, respect is due for this film existing in the first place, as a lack of budget and, in a lot of cases, a lack of production ambition often get in the way of such things. But when looking at this film specifically, again with that minimum respect in mind, there’s a fair amount that I like about this, and just as much, if not more, that I have questions about.

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) - Movie Review

Okay.

So there’s the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre that came out in 1974, then there was the sequel, then there was Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, then The Next Generation, then the 2003 remake of the original, then the prequel to that remake, then Texas Chainsaw 3D, then the 2017 movie also called Leatherface that was a prequel to the original (or possibly another prequel to the remake of the original), and now we have a new film that came out on Netflix last month that’s just called Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Everybody got that?

Monday, 21 March 2022

Book Of Love (2022) - Movie Review

I’m not sure what I was hoping to get out of this. I mean, it’s a cheesetastic rom-com with a very specific audience that I am in no way a part of; even with my usual willingness to watch just about anything, I went into this mainly as just a means to get out of the house for a bit. But as I sat in that cinema, completely alone, I came face to face with a film that managed an admittedly impressive gambit of being both unfathomably boring and infuriating to sit through.

Wednesday, 9 March 2022

The Batman (2022) - Movie Review

There’s an easy joke to be made about there being yet another Batman movie in cinemas right now. And while it’s certainly true that the Dark Knight can be quite oversaturated, both on the screen and in the comics, that’s largely the result of just how versatile he is as a character aesthetic. Some put emphasis on the psychological edges of his choice to be a Bat-man who regularly fights insane asylum escapees, like in Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum. Others focus more on the tragedy of that existence, where he’s fighting an endless war for a city he knows far less about than he realises, like in Scott Snyder’s New 52 run. Others still frame him as the father of a family of crimefighters (something that has taken on a literal dimension in recent years thanks to Damian Wayne), finding a substitute for the family he lost when he was a child, like in Marv Wolfman’s A Lonely Place Of Dying.

It’s stuff like this that can keep a pop culture figure fresh even after eighty years, and it’s part of the reason why I have and likely always will look forward to seeing a new take on Gotham’s protector. I had next to no apprehensions about this thing from day one of hearing about it, as Robert Pattinson has gone from strength to strength in his post-Twilight script picks, and Matt Reeves has some exceptional work under his belt with War For The Planet Of The Apes, as well as Cloverfield and Let Me In. And thankfully, all of that talent pools into something that… well, there will always be a debate to be had over where this sits alongside past efforts, but it most assuredly stands out from the pack in a number of ways.

Monday, 7 March 2022

Studio 666 (2022) - Movie Review

Medicine At Midnight is a weird-ass album. I love the hell out of the Foo Fighters (Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace is one of my favourite albums from any band), but hearing them go into full-on DFA-style dance-rock was quite jarring. It’s like a midway point between a standard late-period Foos album and a Bee Gees cover album, which the Foos also released just a few months later under the name ‘Dee Gees’ (it’s called Hail Satin, and it’s surprisingly good; Dave can hit those high notes). For a former post-grunge band rubbing up against disco, it’s certainly not as embarrassing as Nickleback’s She Keeps Me Up, and even in the larger spectrum of aging post-grunge, it’s a hell of a lot better than whatever the fuck Aaron Lewis is doing nowadays, but it’s still very odd. To paraphrase a YouTube comment under their cover of You Should Be Dancing, it shows the Foos entering the “because we fucking can” phase of their career.

I bring all this up because, even with all that in my head beforehand, the most interesting aspect of Medicine At Midnight isn’t on the album itself. Rather, it’s to do with where Grohl and company recorded the thing. They shacked up in a 1940s mansion in Encino, Los Angeles, where, according to Grohl, weird shit kept happened. Like, ‘this house might be possessed’ kind of weird shit. They had to sign an NDA with the house’s owner, so they’re unable to get into their own supposed filmed evidence of this stuff, but basically, the Foos’ softest record to date was recorded under some pretty metal circumstances.

And from that background, the spores for this film came forth, with a script based on Dave Grohl’s experiences and the band itself starring as fictionalised versions of themselves. Hell, the main shooting location is the Encino property this all originally took place in. I had next to no expectations going into this, but out of respect for both the Spheres and Dave Grohl himself as the nicest guy in rock, I was definitely curious to see what kind of production could spring out of such an idea. The end result of it all, however, is confusingly muddled.

Tuesday, 1 March 2022

Quo Vadis, Aida? (2022) - Movie Review

Might want to have a stiff drink on hand for this one, because this is going to be a difficult film to write about, much less read about. This is a Bosnian film (another first for this blog’s coverage of international cinema) set during the Srebrenica massacre, which involved the slaughter of over 8000 Bosniak Muslims at the hands of the Army of Republika Srpska. And unlike more recent films like Beanpole or Hive (which also looked at Serbia’s history of war crimes), the story isn’t being told in retrospect. Instead, it is told from the point-of-view of the titular Aida (Jasna Ðuričić), a teacher who also works as an interpreter for the United Nations, who finds herself in the middle of the events that would lead to genocide.

Saturday, 26 February 2022

Benedetta (2022) - Movie Review

I have been eagerly looking forward to seeing this movie and reviewing it. Hell, I’ve been itching for the chance to talk about its director for quite some time. Filmmaker Paul Verhoeven has one of the most fascinating, if not outright legendary, filmographies of any cinema creative I’ve come across. After some modest successes in his native Holland over the ‘70s and early ‘80s, Verhoeven moved to the United States and had one hell of a hot streak. RoboCop, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Showgirls, Starship Troopers, and Hollow Man, all one right after the other over the course of thirteen years. This is why I love auteur theory: So many of the idiosyncrasies in those films suddenly make a bit more sense once you realise they’re from the same mind.

And after a brief return to the Netherlands for 2006’s Black Book, he has since settled down in France where he put together the immensely uncomfortable (and I say that as someone who sat through Una and The Nightingale) Ella. For as much as I can appreciate the characterisation in that film, it also shows a darker side to Verhoeven’s iconic lack of taste that is not easy to sit through, and not exactly for the best of reasons. As someone with a serious admiration for the man’s work at his peak (Showgirls isn’t a so-bad-it’s-good movie, it’s a legitimately great film, and I will die on that hill), I was truly hoping that his latest wouldn’t be more of the same unpleasantness. And indeed, this is quite a different beast from the likes of Ella.

Thursday, 24 February 2022

Cyrano (2022) - Movie Review

Well, Universal sent me to another preview screening, and even though I have some… uncomfortable history with the director behind this particular feature, I’ll admit that I was actually quite hopeful that this would turn out good. The last three write-ups I’ve done on the works of Joe Wright have been, in a word, disastrous. Pan and The Woman In The Window are so amazingly bad that they almost reach genius from the other side, and Darkest Hour ultimately didn’t pan out because it came out too soon after the similar (and superior, at least to me) feature Churchill.

But over time, I’ve at least made peace with the fact that these films exist, as the bread of that turd sandwich is the result of Joe Wright trying to work outside of the classically-minded, accessibly-presented, ‘ideal for high school classes studying the original text’ framework that made up the bulk of his filmography pre-Pan. They were failed experiments, but experiments nonetheless, and as soon as the trailer for his latest reached my attention, I was hoping he’d make a comeback by reminding audiences why his debut with Pride & Prejudice made as big a splash as it did: The man is talented, if given the right story to work with.

Tuesday, 22 February 2022

Here Out West (2022) - Movie Review

Even from an early age, prejudice along the lines of race or ethnic background never made much sense to me. Not because I’m any sort of profoundly enlightened individual or any such ponce like that; it’s more the result of what I understand to be the cultural makeup of where I was born and where I have spent the entirety of my life so far: Australia. It is, and I say with all the love I can muster for a geographical location, a mongrel nation. A former prison colony that has since become a hub for all manner of multicultural communities and existences, from the indigenous population that the ‘settlers’ fucked over, to our umbilical cord connection to Europe as a British colony, to our proximity to the rest of Asia. Our national identity (well, the parts of it that aren’t a result of our criminal ancestry) doesn’t make sense if not through the context of being the product of basically everywhere else on the planet, just filtered through the kind of laidback attitude that can take a word that is among the most visceral in the English language (cunt) and find a use for it in pretty much every single conversation.

And for as much as I understand how fraught that history of multiculturalism is, as we don’t have the best history when it comes to white Australians interacting with other cultures, that kind of ethnic melting pot is one of the reasons why, for all its faults, I still fucking love this country. And it’s one of the reasons why this particular film, an anthology co-produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, hits me right where I live. Almost literally, since the title and its setting are in Western Sydney, not that far from where I reside and work.

Friday, 18 February 2022

Death On The Nile (2022) - Movie Review

With how a lot of mainstream films have been collecting dust while the pandemic kept mucking up the release schedule over the last couple years, this film arguably has gone through the worst aging of any film caught in that shuffle. Between when filming wrapped up in December of 2019, and its official release in February of 2022, at least four of the actors in this ensemble film have become embroiled in controversies. Actual Cannibal Armie Hammer, Letitia Wright’s ‘vaccine scepticism’, Russell Brand’s descent down the conspiracy YouTube rabbit hole, even Gal Gadot’s nauseating cover of Imagine (which, in her defense, she has since admitted to being… out of touch, to put it mildly); this is the kind of PR clusterfuck that could end up burying a film in release limbo indefinitely, COVID or no COVID.

Not that I'm holding any of that against the film myself. It’s rather unfair to hold Kenneth Branagh or indeed any of the other cast members responsible for actions that not only weren’t even of their own doing, but took place quite a while after the work itself was finished. Don’t get me wrong, it’s more than a little hilarious thinking about this four-car pile-up in hindsight, but… I have no other way to say it: This is a situation where separation of art from the artist absolutely applies. Hell, this isn’t even a new phenomenon for this specific series, given how controversial the casting of Johnny Depp was in Murder On The Orient Express. And that’s also taken on new life considering new information regarding his and Amber Heard’s… disastrous relationship, and how the film itself framed the death of his character in an ultimately positive light, as part of the story’s larger examination of the concept of justice.

I’m bringing all this up because, this early into 2022, it’s the kind of production snafu that threatens to overtake the film itself in terms of sheer interest, more so than possibly any film to come in the next several months. But honestly, as someone who went into this thinking that it would pale in comparison to Branagh’s Belfast, and who wasn’t that into Orient Express to begin with, I walked away from this very surprised by the results. Like, I think I liked this more than Orient or Belfast.

Monday, 14 February 2022

Belfast (2022) - Movie Review

After how well our last look at the work of Kenneth Branagh turned out with All Is True, and considering how self-reflective that film was, I was quite looking forward to this new feature. Where All Is True showed Branagh contemplating his future and his place as an older thespian that was becoming more known for gun-for-hire work than his more theatrical fare, Belfast is primarily about his past. It’s a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story about young Buddy (Jude Hill) growing up in the midst of The Troubles, although it’s not as overtly dramatic as that may make it sound.

Sunday, 13 February 2022

Jackass Forever (2022) - Movie Review

As was likely the case for a lot of suburban Millennials growing up in the 2000s, Jackass ruled my world. We had the first film on VHS back in the day, and I got into it right around the time I discovered Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and I was dangerously hooked. I went and saw the second and third films when they came to cinemas, and I devoured the DVD box sets of the original show, Wildboyz, and Viva La Bam. It’s difficult to really put into words just how much fun it has been watching these guys keep finding new ways to hurt themselves and each other over the past two decades, but it is one of the most joyfully meaningless media franchises I have ever encountered (and I mean by design, not as a criticism of such things).

Which makes the prospect of writing a review for the newest theatrical release a bit daunting, since I usually spend my time on here diving into thematic ideas and how it relates to the world when it was released. I know I have a habit of chronic navel-gazing in my writings, but just how much writing material is there to be found in a film that is inherently plotless and not big on ideas beyond “Watch this guy and wince”?

Saturday, 12 February 2022

Parallel Mothers (2022) - Movie Review

Pedro Almodóvar has a new film out this year. And that name had damn-well better sound familiar to my readers, given how much I gushed over his last film Pain And Glory, my favourite film of 2019 and one of the best films about filmmaking of the entire 2010s. But with that same enthusiasm I showed not that long ago, there’s a good chance that I’m just setting up whatever he has next to fail. I mean, don’t get me wrong, this film is still very, very good, but take my minor gripes to follow with a grain of salt, as I may have already spoilt myself when it comes to this guy at his best.

Friday, 11 February 2022

The Eyes Of Tammy Faye (2022) - Movie Review

After two far-from ideal releases from Jessica Chastain’s Freckle Films in the form of Ava and The 355, I damn-near used every last hope reserve I had left and aimed it directly at this film because I want something good to come out of Chastain as a name-brand producer. And truth be told, she seems to have finally found a production worth having her name on it, both as producer and as title star. Having been somewhat familiar with her work since seeing her in Zero Dark Thirty all those years ago, I’ve always thought of her as a good actor but never one that had a central mind-blowing performance to her credit. Until now, that is.

Saturday, 5 February 2022

Nightmare Alley (2022) - Movie Review

Having managed to contextualise his entire career with his last film The Shape Of Water, it somewhat stands to reason that Guillermo Del Toro would then decide to stretch out into new territory with his following release. Stepping away from the more speculative genre fixtures that have populated his filmography up to this point, he’s now stepping into down-and-dirty film noir, with a sideways-remake of the 1947 Tyrone Power film of the same name (itself adapted from the William Lindsay Gresham novel of the same name). However, out of a want to keep whatever plot revelations are in this story intact so I can get the most out of them (after The Witches, I want to give Del Toro the best chance possible for a rebound), I have not watched the original nor read the source material. But even in that gap, this film has more than enough going for it to be worth recommending.

Tuesday, 1 February 2022

Spencer (2022) - Movie Review

Well, this should be interesting. Another biopic drama from the director of Jackie, a star turn from Kristen Stewart that has gotten her legit Oscar buzz for the first time in her career (I’d wouldn’t normally bother mentioning such things, but with how long she spent as a critical punching bag, it’s more than deserved by this point), and it’s written by the mental giant behind one of last year’s worst films in Locked Down, and 2019’s Best Worst Film in Serenity.

Oh.

Well, two out of three ain’t bad. (RIP Meat Loaf)