Sunday 31 December 2023

Nimona (2023) - Movie Review

Blue Sky Studios deserved better. I had given them a lot of flak for stuff like the Ice Age series and the Rio series, but their last two features not only showed drastic improvement from that standard, but showed that they had carved out their own niche in the modern animation market. Ferdinand had its growing pains, but still had some solid messaging, and Spies In Disguise only built on them further to make something even better. At long last, they found their (in my opinion) much-needed lane for today's family films with some strong pacifist messaging.

Then Disney bought out Blue Sky’s parent company 21st Century Fox, repeatedly delayed their next feature, and then outright cancelled it along with Blue Sky Studios as a whole. The company that thinks digging up the graves of their previous successes, and that a new coat of CGI paint will cover the smell of stale corpse that is being paraded in front of audiences for profit, is a sound business strategy, but allowing a studio to continue operation and produce media that, just maybe, people might actually want to watch isn’t.

But out of the ashes of Blue Sky, this film still managed to take flight. Picked up by Annapurna Pictures, with animation by DNEG (who proved their salt as a dedicated animation studio with Ron’s Gone Wrong and Entergalactic), and Spies In Disguise directors Nick Bruno and Troy Quane (who were originally slated for the helm before Blue Sky got shuttered) brought back in. That this whole production exists as a manifestation of hubris and spite against the conglomerate that tried to stop it from being made, quite frankly, has already earned my respect. But hoo boy, did it not stop earning it from there.

The Killer (2023) - Movie Review

A new David Fincher film coming out is always cause for celebration. A new David Fincher film coming out after he scored another career highlight with Mank, more so. A new David Fincher film coming out with reuniting with writer Andrew Kevin Walker, the scribe behind his breakthrough work Se7en (and script doctor on his other crowning work Fight Club), even more so than that. Sure, I can’t say I was expecting this to entirely reach those same heights, but as someone who holds both creatives in such high esteem, I was definitely curious to see what a new team-up between them would look like. And in a lot of ways, it’s business as usual for the both of them, and in just as many, there’s something different going on here.

El Conde (2023) - Movie Review

Time to add a new dot on this blog’s global cinematic coverage with a look at some Chilean cinema… although this isn’t necessarily all that new for this blog, or indeed for just the stuff I’ve seen outside of it. We’ve looked at director Pablo Larraín’s work on here twice before with the historical biopics Jackie and Spencer, and there’s some ‘6 Degrees To Kevin Bacon’ that can be played connecting this to the only other Chilean film I’ve seen in The Wolf House, an animated horror story set in the Colonia Dignidad, whose overlord, Paul Schäfer, has been publicly defended by conservative minister Hernán Larraín, Pablo’s father.

Saturday 30 December 2023

They Cloned Tyrone (2023) - Movie Review

After co-writing Creed II, and getting thrown into the unholy soup that is the script for Space Jam: A New Legacy, writer Juel Taylor has made his directorial debut with one of the better Blaxploitation flips I’ve seen in a minute. Where remakes of the old guard like Shaft and Superfly felt the need to modernise the genre’s aesthetics (which only brought into question why they’d even bother getting involved in that genre in the first place), this actually sticks to its identifiable qualities, albeit with some updating on the cultural references like Obama and Bitcoin. The moody, shadowy cinematography from DP Ken Seng, the Terrace Martin-esque funk soundtrack from Desmond Murray and Pierre Charles (those basslines are just *chef’s kiss*), the frankly amazing costume design across the board; this looks really damn good.

Women Talking (2023) - Movie Review

[tw: sexual assault]

In Manitoba Colony, a Mennonite settlement in Bolivia, at least 151 women and children were raped over the course of four-or-so years. An anaesthetic normally reserved for livestock was sprayed in through their windows, knocking everyone inside the houses unconscious. At first, the men of the village attributed the ‘mysterious’ incidents to demonic attacks or possibly being done by Satan himself; in common parlance, once the event broke through the isolated nature of the village and its inhabitants, one name attributed to it was the ‘ghost rapes of Bolivia’.

While this film, and the novel on which it was based, is set with the backdrop of this atrocity, they primarily serve as a dramatic addendum to it. Described on-screen as an “act of female imagination” (a phrase also used to describe the assault itself when the women came forward about a more terrestrial culprit than Christianity's favourite strawman), the story depicts an impromptu council of women from this settlement, who meet up and try to come to a consensus about what they do next. Do they do nothing? Do they stay and fight? Or do they leave?

All The Beauty And The Bloodshed (2023) - Movie Review

I fractured my arm earlier this year. It was the first broken bone I’d had since high school, and while it wasn’t as bizarrely timed as those particular incidents (first ever broken bone was on my first day of Year 7, and the second and third happened a year later almost to the day), there was still some weirdness to it since it involved a literal legs-out-from-under-me pratfall in public due to a slippery floor. Even on accident, I just can’t help but make a public spectacle of myself.

At any rate, I went to the hospital to get it checked out, they confirmed it was indeed fractured… and then I got prescribed Oxycodone (or OxyContin, as it's more widely known) to deal with the pain. I usually don’t even bother with pain meds (and this isn’t some macho ‘I feel no pain’ nonsense talking; I just don’t really notice if they’re working or not), but since that first night after the break had me in utter sleepless agony, I figured it was worth trying. The main effect I remember it having, aside from the dulling of the pain as it should’ve done, was this woozy, drowsy sensation that lasted for a good few hours. It was… nice. Pleasant.

What wasn’t so pleasant was the isolation of being stuck inside, in pain, and feeling generally useless because I wasn’t able to get household chores done. Not to get too into it, but had I not accidentally thrown out that very Oxy prescription at one point, that isolation might have led me to do something very stupid. As I got into with Talk To Me, I have something of an addictive personality, along with hedonistic tendencies, and while I haven’t tried to get any more Oxy since then (and likely never will), there’s still a part of me that wonders what might’ve happened had I not thrown out that bottle. Would I still be taking it now? How close would I get to becoming part of that terrifying statistic?

Friday 29 December 2023

Totally Killer (2023) - Movie Review

While the previous Christopher B. Landon film didn’t really play to his strengths, it really says something about strong those strengths are when two other films came out that within the same ballpark… and yet Landon had nothing to do with them. With how close we are to the end of the year, it’s unlikely that we’ll get to It’s A Wonderful Knife, but we are going to get into this film, which takes the Back To The Future inspiration from the Happy Death Day films and pushes them even further.

Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom (2023) - Movie Review

The DCEU has finally come to an end. The never-ending Crisis of bad timing, bad management, and just generally bad decisions on the part of Warner Bros. is about to be laid to rest and reborn as (hopefully) something better. Not that it’s been all bad, though. Hell, I’d argue that it wasn’t even mostly bad; Wonder Woman, Suicide Squad (both of them), the Snyder Cut, and, where today’s subject is most pertinent, Aquaman all still hold up as worthy adaptations of the DC pantheon of heroes. I still have my issues with the franchise’s lesser moments (all the turning-around I’ve done on Zack Snyder still hasn’t made Man Of Steel look any friggin’ better), and the tail-end has led to some truly inexplicable releases like Black Adam and the Skittles movie, but as someone who still holds a torch for capeshit, I want these movies to be good. Which is why this last hurrah is especially disappointing.

Thursday 28 December 2023

Migration (2023) - Movie Review

While Illumination managed to pull themselves out of their recent funk with the success of The Super Mario Bros. Movie, I was still a bit sceptical about whether that would be a fluke or not. It’s highly unlikely that the studio would be able to keep bringing back the geniuses behind Teen Titans Go! To The Movies for every release going forward, and given their previous track record of trying to relive past glories, there’s just something about how generic this film comes across on first glance that had me worried. Well, that and being written by Mike White, whose last animated venture was with the generation-defining disaster of The Emoji Movie. However, not only does this manage to keep up with that Mario-mentum (oh shush, I liked that one), but it taps back into what I originally started liking about Illumination Studios specifically.

Anyone But You (2023) - Movie Review

I don’t like Will Gluck as a filmmaker. Ever since Year One of this blog’s existence, I’ve been weary of the unbearably smug approach he has to storytelling, especially when he’s trying to adapt from other sources. While the first Peter Rabbit film wasn’t that bad (although it was definitely jarring with that EpiPen scene), its sequel along with that awful Annie remake positively reeked of creative influence from someone who thinks he knows so much better than the original writers, and just can’t stop writing checks that his actual skill set can’t cash. Learning that a rom-com from this guy is now out in cinemas is, to put it lightly, concerning, and I can’t say I was looking forward to it. What I can say is that, at long freaking last, I can safely say that I enjoyed a Will Gluck movie.

Wednesday 27 December 2023

Blueback (2023) - Movie Review

I haven't had the best luck with Tim Winton. I’ll admit that I haven’t read any of his books (far as I can remember, at any rate), and while I do like to highlight local talent in these reviews, the last two films I’ve looked at based on his work were differing kinds of “really not my thing”. With Breath, it was the jarring and rather unsettling exploration of sexuality, specifically between an underaged boy and a grown-ass woman, which just left a bad taste in my mouth. And with Dirt Music, I didn’t even get that much taste, despite it looking rather nice. Thankfully, this doesn’t feel as gross to watch as Breath… but unfortunately, that means it leans more into the Dirt Music side of things.

Poor Things (2023) - Movie Review

Yorgos Lanthimos is a mad genius of filmmaking. Having managed to make a rather unexpected emergence into the mainstream off of The Favourite, which took his usually osmium-thick storytelling style and made it accessible to a larger audience, his latest feature is as much a departure from that as The Favourite was from The Killing Of A Sacred Deer. DP Robbie Ryan is still offering a peephole-view into a world that is wildly different from what we charitably consider to be ‘reality’, and writer Tony McNamara is still finding new and deliciously colourful ways to describe the most vulgar shit, but what Lanthimos has brought them together for this time around is something truly special.

Tuesday 26 December 2023

No Hard Feelings (2023) - Movie Review

Every so often, I end up encountering a film that didn’t get the chance it deserved because some surface detail became the public fixation. It’s not so often that said chance wasn’t given by myself for that very reason. Yes, for as much as I try not to judge films based purely on their marketing, especially since I watch so many damn movies every year, I’ll admit that the premise of this one immediately had me on edge. The main premise of an older woman essentially being hired by the parents of an incredibly awkward young adult to have sex with said incredibly awkward young adult, on first glance, set off one of my hair triggers. I’ve gotten into this in past reviews, where storylines that are usually reserved for more unsettling tones are presented as light and comedic purely because it’s happening to a man as opposed to a woman, furthering the damaging stereotype of men as always prepared for sex… no matter what they themselves have to say about it.

But of course, as is usually the case with getting judgemental about the packaging rather than the content, the ick factor of that idea is the entire point of the film itself.

Transfusion (2023) - Movie Review

With how many films I get through every year, marketing material and trailers in particular don’t really have an effect on me nowadays. Most of the time, trailers just serve as snapshots for stuff I know I’ll be looking at at some point anyway, so they don’t serve the same interest for me that they would most general audiences. But then there are situations like the marketing around this film, and the subsequent response that the film proper has gotten, and I feel the need to address the discrepancy.

See, the trailer for this film presents it as some kind of crime thriller with shootouts, the kind of thing you’d expect Neeson to have helmed a few years back. But instead, the actual film is more of a slow-burn drama about family, masculinity, and how far men will go to preserve one or the other.

Monday 25 December 2023

Sweet As (2023) - Movie Review

Pitching something as ‘The Breakfast Club, but set in the Outback’ is pretty much a done deal for a filmgoer like myself. One of the reasons why I love that film, and its central formula, is that it’s a straight-forward but effective foundation for good characterisation, since the story inherently involves discovering everyone’s different facets on the part of both the audience and the other characters. So, naturally, a film about a similar scenario involving troubled teens being brought together to reveal some greater truth that ties them all together… yeah, I’m all for that. But this film isn’t exactly that.

Beautiful Disaster (2023) - Movie Review

After the last two After films, I figured that we had already reached Peak Fanfiction. Between After Ever Happy cutting the pretence and turning its male lead into a glorified fanfic writer, and After Everything bending over backwards about the creepy undertones of legitimising that kind of writing like this, I thought we had officially hit the ceiling. But no, it seems that Wattpad still have at least one more direction to go, and it might be the most embarrassing one yet. See, Beautiful Disaster, the latest product to come out of the Wattpad assembly line, shows the publisher now starting to make fanfiction… about themselves.

Sunday 24 December 2023

Spy Kids: Armageddon (2023) - Movie Review

Even before I recognised Robert Rodriguez’s name as a filmmaker, the Spy Kids series was the shit when I was a kid. The first one in particularly was largely responsible for me going through a major spy phase, getting a bunch of toy gadgets and playing mock action spy in the playground… alone… because goddamn, if you think reading my words as an adult makes me look awkward, kid-me was even worse. And the films themselves have held pretty damn well… okay, two of them have held up really well, with 3-D: Game Over having aged especially poorly thanks to the visuals and ugly-ass red-blue 3D, and All The Time In The World being just a categorical disaster that Rodriguez himself was basically strong-armed into doing thanks to Harvey Weinstein (a statement which itself has aged even worse than Game Over).

But even those films still held onto the unshakeable earnestness that RR approaches every production with. The way he wrapped up so many wrong-headed ideas in All The Time In The World with a genuine message about putting family first and doing right by your kids (made stronger by how he often makes films with his kids)… I mean, the film overall still sucks, but there’s no denying that he meant that shit.

You People (2023) - Movie Review

I wasn’t even planning on watching this. I was originally going to check out Rebel Moon, but then I read up on how there was going to be a director’s cut, and given… well, everything to do with Zack Snyder and extended cuts, I want to both avoid the larger conversation as best I can while also giving him the best chance possible. So, as a result, that review is getting moved to early next year. And out of blind panic, and remembering that this film was a talking point earlier in the year, I basically went “fuck it” and picked this. Words cannot express how much I regret that decision.

Saturday 23 December 2023

No One Will Save You (2023) - Movie Review

This feels like the kind of flex every screenwriter-cum-director wants to make. After making his mark with some incredibly well-scripted efforts with The Babysitter, Love And Monsters, and even his directorial debut with Spontaneous, it looks like Brian Duffield wanted to show that he could tell a great story without even needing dialogue. And indeed, this is a film about a largely-mute protagonist who says all of one line, and the rest of the cast are just as silent. As someone who has been growing to love Duffield’s cinematic work, I was definitely curious about how such a venture would shape out.

We Have A Ghost (2023) - Movie Review

Christopher B. Landon’s latest film sees him shift from the ‘(insert ‘80s movie) but it’s a slasher’ prompting that’s been part of his last handful of releases, but only somewhat. He’s still quite indebted to the nostalgic films of that era; it’s just that the specific horror genre flavouring is different.

In this case, we have a haunted house story that plays out like a cross between Beetlejuice and E.T., showing Kevin (Jahi Winston) moving into a new house and making friends with ghost Ernest (David Harbour), while Kevin’s father (Anthony Mackie) and brother (Niles Fitch) try to make bank off of Ernest on social media. And honestly, the entertainment value varies quite a bit depending on what is being pulled from.

Friday 22 December 2023

Maestro (2023) - Movie Review

Bradley Cooper is one of my favourite people working in Hollywood right now. As an actor, he just got done completing the heartbreaking character arc of a talking raccoon and solidifying him as one of the greatest modern superheroes with Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3. As a producer, he backed another whopper of a comic book flick with Joker, a film I still hold in rather high regard and am beyond curious to see what in the hell the sequel is going to shape into. And as a director, his debut with A Star Is Born was a monster hit when it came out, and one of my faves from that year. The man just keeps making power moves, and always with this unmistakable confidence that, no matter what direction he takes, it’s the right one for him.

It's the kind of quality that makes him helming a film like this (or, more specifically, why Steven Spielberg would emphatically insist that he helm it) make total sense, and something of a necessity in order to do it right. While I freely admit that I don’t know all that much about Leonard Bernstein, the legend around his name carries a lot of weight, and with the take that’s being attempted here, there’s a incredibly high degree of difficulty in making it work.

Run Rabbit Run (2023) - Movie Review

‘Elevated horror’ as a sub-genre heading has its elitist undertones and occasionally nebulous usage, but there is still a certain aesthetic that fits that heading. Artsy and unconventional horror films have been a backbone of the genre since its inception, but specifically since the early-mid 2010s, there’s been a noticeable push towards that kind of fare.

In retrospect, the whole movement (if it can even be considered unified enough to count as such) felt like a direct reaction to the waning years of the found footage craze spearheaded by Paranormal Activity, which was reaching its nadir around the time that elevated horror films really started to take off. Instead of the façade of amateur filmmaking provided by the prominent handheld camerawork, and the gratuitous use of jump scares, elevated horror tended to delve more into the formalist side of things, returning to the technical fundamentals to see how far they could be pushed and bent to create new sensations. I may not entirely agree with the naming and framing of this general wave, but as a functional label, it can be quite handy.

Thursday 21 December 2023

Love Again (2023) - Movie Review

I first became aware of this… product (yeah, it’s gonna be one of those reviews, strap in) when a trailer for it showed up during a preview screening I went to for FilmInk. I had two immediate reactions to it: “But why, though?” and “There’s no way this is a real movie”. Yep, we have another Boss Baby situation, where it feels like I need to be convinced that the film I’m looking at even exists in the first place. It’s a testament to just how much raw cliché and sheer bewilderment was compressed into a single point to create that trailer. And yeah, now that I’ve sat through the whole thing, I can definitely confirm that it exists… although that just raises more questions.

Guy Ritchie's The Covenant (2023) - Movie Review

I haven’t been fair to Guy Ritchie. Hell, if we’re being honest, I haven’t been that fair to his ex Madonna either, given how I blamed her for Ritchie’s downturn after Snatch; that shit isn’t cool. And neither is how I’ve been framing Guy Ritchie’s films for as long as I’ve been looking at them on here. Having grown up with Snatch, I had a concrete idea in my mind that that is what Guy Ritchie was good at, viewing pretty much everything else that came after it as him trying to diversify into new areas and stepping out of his reach. While I still stand by some of that criticism of him making films that don’t fit his strengths (e.g. the Aladdin remake), thinking that he absolutely must keep making snarky Brit-hard comedic crime dramas for the rest of his career just isn’t reasonable. And it’s only with his latest that I finally got around to understanding that about the guy.

Wednesday 20 December 2023

Ghosted (2023) - Movie Review

Films like this feel like practical jokes. Like, hey, there’s people out there who pay real close attention to the names attached to movies, so let’s bring a bunch of them together. We’ll get the guy who directed Rocketman, the writers of the Deadpool and MCU Spider-Man movies, and we’ll get Mindy Marin to work her usual magic and cast all kinds of hot acting talent for it, led by Chris Evans and Ana De Armas. Apparently, the strategy worked, as this set a new record for debut audience numbers on Apple TV+. Of course, first appearances aren’t everything, and it takes little more than a light breeze to scratch the paint off of this bafflingly awful product.

Chicken Run: Dawn Of The Nugget (2023) - Movie Review

The idea of making a sequel to Aardman’s first feature has been floating around since that film initially came out, and considering modern trends towards legacy sequels and the like, it would make sense for them to attempt it around now. It helps that their last film, the Shaun The Sheep sequel, was bloomin’ fantastic and a high benchmark for a studio that’s already a legend in the industry. However, for both good and bad, this is quite a different clucker from the original.