Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Movie Review: Happy Death Day (2017)

There is an entire singularity of irony surrounding today’s movie. When Groundhog Day first came out, it was well-regarded and seen as a welcome reprieve from the norm. In the wake of Edge Of Tomorrow, everyone and their two-bit production house decided to get in on the time loop narrative trend, resulting in not only crushing that sense of reprieve that made all this work in the first place, but at a frequency that will likely make most moviegoers feel like they themselves are reliving the same day over and over again. With how many of these films I’ve already covered, I am seriously sceptical that there is any new ground to cover with this idea. I know that “Hollywood has officially run out of ideas” is so much of a meme as to lose any real meaning in saying it, but as I delved into not that long ago, it is starting to become even more pronounced than before. So, with the director of the widely-derided Scouts' Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse and prolific producer Jason Blum at the helm, is there going to be anything here that isn’t going to make me repeat myself yet again? Well, this is the year of all things surprising, so I’ll admit to being curious about how this will turn out. This is Happy Death Day… ugh… that title is not a promising start.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Movie Review: Battle Of The Sexes (2017)

The plot: Former world champion tennis player Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) makes a public bet: $100,000 to any female player that can beat him on the court. Billie Jean King (Emma Stone), as a means to show that female tennis players deserve equal pay as the men, accepts the bet. With Riggs’ media circus hyping up the main event, and King trying to juggle her professional life with her blooming attraction to hairdresser Marilyn (Andrea Riseborough), the stakes are set for what would become one of the most famous sporting events in history.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Movie Review: Flatliners (2017)

Even though history doesn’t exactly carry that much regard for filmmaker Joel Schumacher, I can’t help but think that his legacy has been unfairly discarded. Most remember him for the legendary failure that is Batman & Robin, and it’s honestly the kind of film designed to destroy careers in the first place, but the guy’s body of work stretches far beyond that. Me personally, while his more silly tendencies do factor into a lot of the guy’s films, when he indulges in his darker sensibilities, he is un-goddamn-touchable. From the look into self-induced paranoia of The Number 23 to his examination of the sex industry and the darkness within with 8MM, right down to Falling Down, a film I genuinely think changed my larger worldview for the better after first watching it. Basically, the guy either makes really good dark cinema or really cheesy cinema; he’s far better at the former than the latter. One such example of this is the original Flatliners, a film that, once it found a consistent tone, made for good psycho-thrills; you can probably guess already what draws me to this guy’s filmography. Of course, knowing the track record for sequels-masquerading-as-remakes, learning about today’s film made my heart sink a little bit. But hey, maybe there’s another surprise in store for us; after all I’ve covered this year, I wouldn’t put it past anyone to succeed against the odds. Take a deep breath, like it could be your last, and let’s get started: This is Flatliners.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Movie Review: Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

Freelance agent Mahan reporting in. Mission: Complete the Experiment to quantify the success rate of Hollywood cinema, in light of recent evidence that the system may be in jeopardy. Secondary objective involving target Harvey Weinstein has been handed off to field agents, and it appears to have been successful. Target has been held accountable for their actions and the flood of corroborating intel has ensured further action will be taken. Dossier for today’s objective: Kingsman, product made by Matthew Vaughn in 2014.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Movie Review: The LEGO Ninjago Movie (2017)

With the current furore going on concerning the state of Hollywood and the products it’s creating, I figure I’d turn this into a little experiment. The Emoji Movie et al. is getting people to realize just how cynical the system can get, the general reactions to Mother show that even filmmakers willing to make the effort aren’t getting respected, and the recent unearthing of the heinous behaviour of Harvey Weinstein, one of the most prolific producers in the business, is bringing the questioning to a moral level; we’re in a weird and possibly disastrous spot right now.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Movie Review: The King's Choice (2017)

Even with the breadth of releases that I’ve gotten so far on this blog, today is going to mark not only a first in terms of reviewing but also a personal first. Today's subject marks the first Norwegian film I have ever watched (that I’m aware of), not just the first that I’ve reviewed. Something I’m learning quickly from the prevalence of Indian cinema at my local is that, like a lot of other things, I rely on what I watch when it comes to understanding other cultures. Some are easier to grasp than others: The American monopoly means that there are a lot of facets of the U.S. that get shown on screen, the occasional British releases have given a better insight into my country’s sovereign nation, and even the increasingly-rare Aussie productions provide a snapshot of my home outside of my suburban domicile. Beyond that, I’m pretty in the dark and no less so than when it comes to Norway. I mean, my extent of the country’s societal trappings comes from Where To Invade Next, and while I would make a joke about how Michael Moore isn’t exactly the most objective viewpoint to adhere to, I’m still trying to comprehend the workings of their prison system as shown in that film. Basically, if this review sounds like an ill-informed foreigner trying to understand a given culture, it’s only because it is. This is The King’s Choice.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Movie Review: Girls Trip (2017)

Back in July of this year, in the middle of some potentially scary medical issues (multiple hospital visits, a lot of dead-ends as to what the hell was going from doctors, that kind of thing), I only managed to get one review done in that whole month. Knowing the frank inconsistency in terms of when reviews get posted here and at what frequency, I still feel like I hideously dropped the ball. Partly because it showed a certain amount of slackness on my part (hobby or no hobby, I take this work far too seriously to let a little thing like potential death get in the way of it, and I am actually serious about that point) and partly because that one review was on a film that I both hated and could probably write a thorough review for without even seeing it. Yes, Rough Night is legitimately that bad, one of the latest instances of the ‘chick flick’ sub-genre digging itself into a cesspool of hatefulness and misguided intentions. Well, in a double saving-throw, I am looking at a film that has a lot of similarities to Rough Night on the surface (distaff Hangover knock-off) and giving myself a chance to look like somewhat less of a sexist asshole by showing how that very idea can work… supposedly. This could be just as bad, or worse, or it could be legitimately decent; only one way to find out. Keep all grapefruits out of arm’s reach; this is Girls’ Trip.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Movie Review: Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (2017)

Back in 2015, after the monumental disaster of Home, I was about ready to completely write off Dreamworks as an animation company worth any amount of my time. Even compared to films I’ve seen beyond the lists, it still holds up as one of the single worst things ever designed for juvenile consumption. Well, not only did they collectively waste no time in proving my assumptions wrong, they have done in the most unprecedented of ways. Kung Fu Panda 3, a film from a critically-acclaimed series that both felt short of the franchise’s pedigree and held up alongside its predecessors. Trolls, what should have become a legendary failure of toy-driven marketing in actuality was a simplistic but still amazingly resonant family film with some truly inspired musical decisions. The Boss Baby, a film that I actively had to be convinced was a genuine product and not just a work of Internet parody that went too far, turned out to have a lot of merit to its name and some very relevant things to say, for both kids and adults. I would normally question the studio’s decision to bring one of the most wholeheartedly sophomoric children’s books into a feature film with today’s feature, but after that track record, I wouldn’t put it past them. This is Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Movie Review: American Assassin (2017)

The plot: Mitch (Dylan O’Brien)’s life got turned upside down after his fiancĂ©e was murdered in the middle of a terrorist attack. From then on, Mitch dedicated himself to getting revenge on the terrorist cell, to the point of getting the attention of CIA Deputy Director Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan). She sends Mitch to train under black ops operative Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton) and prepare for the best chance he has to get that revenge he craves.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Movie Review: Victoria & Abdul (2017)

With how much time I spend at the cinemas as opposed to doing pretty much anything else, I end up relying a fair bit on my film intake when it comes to learning certain things. Things like foreign cultures and the history behind them. Because of this, especially when discussing historical films from other countries, I’ve wound up learning more about that history from films than anywhere else. For instance, through watching Bollywood films, I’ve gained a certain level of understanding concerning the cultural strain between the U.K. and India, like the line separating India and Pakistan from Begum Jaan. Of course, there’s also the element of bias to keep in consideration; no matter what is being depicted on-screen, there is always some level of creator bias involved, even with films based on historical details. So, basically, whatever I’ve picked up from films in regards to history is always packaged with an understanding that the real-world events may or may not have actually occurred as shown; it’s a weird tightrope to walk. It’s because of this I tend to be lenient with most biopics, at least in terms of accuracy to the real events, since films that are 100% true to the story are exceptionally rare. Tl;dr As we get into today’s film concerning a historical British monarch, I’m not going to focus too highly on historical accuracy; I’ll just stick with efficacy at storytelling as always. This is Victoria & Abdul.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Movie Review: Mother! (2017)

Over the course of these reviews, I’ve talked at great length about directors who rank up there with my absolute favourites: Edgar Wright, Christopher Nolan, Kevin Smith, Tim Burton, Steven Soderbergh, even directors who became my favourites as I wrote more about them here like Denis Villeneuve. Today, however, we’re talking about my No. 1 spot, the filmmaker that I hold in the highest regard above all others: Darren Aronofsky. The reasons for which are rather simple: His filmography is full of truly great films, save for Black Swan but that’s just down to personal taste, and he fulfills my liking for psycho-thrills more consistently than any other filmmaker I’ve come across. His approach to all things spiritual and psychological appealed to me even before my critical awakening, and to this day he continues to impress me. Without question, I was looking forward to this one… and yet the initial opinions on it (both from critics and audiences) are the most divisive I’ve seen for any film in recent years. Well, time to cut into this thing, and be warned that this is going to be a bumpy ride. This is Mother.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Movie Review: The Emoji Movie (2017)

2017 has been an… interesting year so far. In the real world, a series of natural disasters and what appears to be a Twitter-influenced update on the Cold War going on between the U.S. and North Korea has put a lot of worry in people that we are on the brink of destruction. Oh, and some other stuff concerning sexuality just to make everyone seem even more petty than they already are. In situations like this, I and quite a few others would turn to popular entertainment to get away from it all: Movies, TV (or rather Netflix nowadays), video games, literature; whatever gets the mind off things for a little while. Well, in terms of movies at least, that isn’t working all that well either. Over the past couple of months, a series of underperforming releases have resulted in some of the lowest U.S. box office returns on record. If it wasn't for It breaking audience records at the same time, the industry could be in legitimate trouble at this stage. As much as people are quick to jump on whatever hate bandwagon that could even remotely explain this, with everyone from the filmmakers to the critics to the general audiences getting thrown into the crossfire, I’d like to think that there is a far simpler explanation for all this. That explanation, as you may have already guessed, is the subject of today’s review: A film that has gotten legendarily awful reviews, the kind that can secure a release into the annals of all-time bad filmmaking. And I can hardly friggin’ blame them, quite honestly, and you’ll see why as we get into this. This is The Emoji Movie… when this first got announced, I knew this would be a real piece of work, but even that couldn’t have prepared me for this.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Movie Review: It (2017)

As we continue our look into the Stephen King adaptations for the year, we’ve come to a certain story that holds a very special place in my heart for a number of reasons. Growing up with a rather morbid and horror-loving mother, I had a lot of exposure to King’s work growing up. One such examples was the 1990 miniseries based on King’s novel It. Despite its rather glaring issues, much like most other Stephen King-based miniseries, it has a very secure place in my personal nostalgia. That connection would eventually lead to the Nostalgia Critic incident, which I have discussed on here before, where my love for the miniseries lead me to my first-ever instance of fanboy rage. I’ve had many more cases of that since then, but that was what first lit fire under me to rage out about what someone else dares to think about something I love; you’ll notice that I don’t tend to do this that much anymore. And now, after a fair amount of time in production limbo, we have the first of two theatrical films based on that same story. Knowing my own love for Tim Curry’s homicidal kookiness as Pennywise, I was definitely sceptical about how it would measure up. What I was in no way prepared for was just how good this would turn out. This is It.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Movie Review: American Made (2017)

If you’ve been following my reviews for any length of time, you’ll know that I have a rather specific approach to most of the films I cover. I try and give some breathing room for the acting and production values of each film, but more times than not, I end up talking about the general vibe of a film more than anything else; the supposed “message” behind all of it and end up judging films with that largely in mind. Well, as much as I tend to focus on the main sentiment of a given production, there are certain ideas and notions that I find myself repelled by; things like the general attitude of most ‘chick flicks’ or rather distasteful ideas concerning issues of mental health tend to set me off and make me a bit myopic in my overall critique, as if a film’s overall theme overrides anything and everything else it may have to offer. I bring this up not to start an effort to avoid such things in the future, but to once again bring whatever biases I have going into films to the forefront. And unfortunately, we have another instance of that today with a film that involves a form of commentary that I will likely never be able to take seriously. But I’m getting ahead of myself; let’s get started with today’s film already. This is American Made.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Movie Review: Everything, Everything (2017)

I’ve covered a lot of movies during this blog’s relatively short existence. In that time, I think I’ve run the gamut in terms of initial reactions. From the sensible (New Michael Bay Transformers movie is probably going to suck) to the somewhat irrational (The Angry Birds Movie has a vendetta against me personally), I’ve shown a pretty broad spectrum. Well, for the second time this year, we’re dealing with a film that I am having difficulty believing even exists in the first place.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Movie Review: Logan Lucky (2017)

Retirement in the world of creative arts has always been a funny thing. As much as it is like any other profession in how some people can get sick of it after a while, the idea of actual retirement in this industry rarely if ever holds water. Here in Australia, one of the biggest running jokes I heard growing up was how singer John Farnham did a retirement concert tour pretty much every year. In terms of films, for as little stock as I hold in the idea of being involved in films flat-out calling it quits, it was still pretty heartbreaking to learn that Steven Soderbergh, one of my all-time favourite filmmakers, was hanging up his hat. Then it was announced that he was doing some TV work with The Knack; still no films, still let down. Then Magic Mike XXL came out, and while he wasn’t directing, he still had a real hand in making it. And then today’s film was announced, and it definitely clicked that a guy who is that passionate about the art form wasn’t likely to just leave the game entirely. But as a dramatic return to the director’s chair, how does this film actually turn out? Is it worth the wait or is it one of those occasions where it would’ve been better if Soderbergh actually did retire? Only one way to find out: This is Logan Lucky.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Movie Review: The Hitman's Bodyguard (2017)

The plot: Disgraced bodyguard Michael (Ryan Reynolds) has been tasked with protecting hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), a key witness in the criminal trial against dictator Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). As they try and manoeuvre their way to the courthouse, they have to deal with Dukhovich’s hired goons, the local police and even each other to make it there in one piece.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Movie Review: The Dark Tower (2017)

We’re going to be getting quite a few adaptations from the written horror legend Stephen King this year. I’m going to cover them as I do any other film, except I’m doing to do something a little different with these. Along with going over the individual merits of the films themselves as per usual, I’m also going to take this time to go over King’s own strengths as a writer, how they present themselves in his works, and ultimately how well these films stand up as a continuation of his ethos. And oh boy, do we have a doozy to start out with. After being in development hell for many years, only truly getting off the ground thanks to everyone’s favourite hack Akiva Goldsman, to say this film hasn’t been well-received would undermine the sheer apathy that this has generated so far. Anyone who has read through my reviews for quote-unquote “boring” films in the past should know that failure to engage often ends up being a bigger sin than just being aggravating or thematic heinous. But is that truly what we get here? Let’s take our first dip in the King pool and find out: This is The Dark Tower.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Movie Review: Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets (2017)

Outside of Luc Besson being an idiosyncratic director (shorthand for “he has his own style that I am unable to put into words”), I don’t have anything new to say about the guy that I haven’t already said in reviews past. As such, I’ll forgo my usual introduction and just get right into this thing because I am legit excited to be talking about this movie. This is Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Movie Review: Dunkirk (2017)

Christopher Nolan is one of those directors who seems to ferociously divide audiences, usually in reference to the director’s more staunch defenders. He has made some truly incredible films, like the cerebral heist flick Inception and the ground-breaking superhero film The Dark Knight, both of which I’d count among my favourite films ever… but the guy’s reputation has been stuck in a bit of a mire for a while now. Interstellar wasn’t that well received overall, and while The Dark Knight Rises still holds up as a good Batman film, it and combined with his involvement in Man Of Steel resulted in the current state of the DC Extended Universe, one that was definitely painted with Nolan’s dark brushstrokes from his Batman work. Naturally, as is the case with pretty much all of his films, the marketing for his latest has been rather inescapable. Knowing my own hesitance to full-force advertising of films and my want for him to pull through with a film that I don’t have to defend quite so hard as something like Rises, this is already looking like an interesting situation for a film’s release. But that’s all background noise; what’s the actual movie like? This is Dunkirk.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Movie Review: Hampstead (2017)

A few times now in my reviews, I have mentioned a few ‘sentient red flags’ that have shown up in some films; actors whose recent track records are so consistently underwhelming that merely seeing them attached to films is enough to make sceptical. Usually, I’ve attributed that label to certain Aussie actors like Jai Courtney and Teresa Palmer, both of whom have been attached to some rather troubling works over the last few years. Well, it is my unfortunate duty to include another actor to that list: Diane Keaton. Over the last couple years, her live-action filmography has ranged from the bland with a touch of mean-spiritedness with And So It Goes to the casually spiteful and rather distasteful with Love The Coopers. Will today’s film show a change in that pattern, or will I have to see another lauded actor fall through the cracks of modern cinema? This is Hampstead.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Movie Review: Annabelle: Creation (2017)

Well, after the unprecedented success of Ouija: Origin Of Evil from last year, a film that I still absolutely adore, I figure it’s about time to put that hope for better cinema into practice. Between Origin Of Evil showing that it is still possible to make a prequel film that outshines the original and the general unpredictability surrounding a lot of this year’s releases, I have more than enough reason to believe that, in spite of how lame the original film was, this film could still turn out alright. So, let’s take a look at this latest horror film from the director of Lights Out… wow. I think I just set a world record for the fastest loss of optimism on that one, but let’s press on anyway. This is Annabelle: Creation.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Movie Review: War For The Planet Of The Apes (2017)

Of all the sci-fi tentpole films that have reached our screens in the last few years, including the myriad of comic book-related fare, no singular series has given more credibility to the genre as a whole like the Planet Of The Apes prequels have managed. Hell, just the fact that we have not one but two prequels from this series that are not a complete embarrassment to the license is proof enough that these are some special-ass movies. Through a combination of legitimately ground-breaking special effects work and some truly inspired scripting, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes and Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes have a very special place in the film industry as it stands today. If we ever grow a sense that the Oscars actually matter in any real way, and decide to end the stigma concerning ‘genre films’ and how they mostly get relegated to the special effects categories in terms of nominations, you’d be hard-pressed to find two better pieces of evidence than those. Since the cyclical nature of cinema releases means that quite a few of 2014’s releases are getting follow-ups this year, I’m definitely curious to see if this film is able to live up to the series standard thus far. What I was not expecting, even from these filmmakers, was a result that manages to outdo the previous installments. How is that even possible? Well, let’s take a look. This is War For The Planet Of The Apes.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Movie Review: Atomic Blonde (2017)

Over the past couple years, mainly off the back of the now-legendary Mad Max: Fury Road, Charlize Theron has become the female action icon that, honestly, we need right now. I know that this might sound a bit reactionary after the pleasant success of Wonder Woman, and especially in light of certain… comments that have been made about it recently, but we don’t really have a lot of bankable female action heroes right now. Not to say that they just don’t exist (hell, I’ve been singing Scarlett Johansson’s praises for a while now) but I specify “bankable” because money talks and we’re still in this weird position of hesitance in letting these actors get their fair share. So, in light of another widely-popular action reinvention in the form of the John Wick movies, Theron tapped Wick co-director David Leitch to give her a fighting chance. Does that chance pay off? Well, time to find out. This is Atomic Blonde.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Movie Review: The Big Sick (2017)

At the time of writing this review, I am at the tail-end of a bout with gastroenteritis; yes, a month and a half in and my body is still finding new ways to keep me out of commission. As my brain is still running on half-full in-between worrying about how intact my lunch is going to stay, I hope you’ll understand if I just skip the pleasantries and get right into the movie already. Hopefully, the film I’m looking at today does a better job of making ghastly medical issues seem funny than I just did. This is The Big Sick.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Movie Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Over the last several months, I’ve probably shown every conceivable pre-conception that a person can have for a movie. Whether it’s down to my own weird tastes or just how surprising this year’s releases have turned out, I’ve gone into the cinema with some odd ideas about what it’ll be like. Well, today’s film will likely represent my absolute worst expectations for a film: I want this film to be bad. Now, as much as I’ve talked about the therapeutic power of cinema, I don’t actively like watching bad movies; I rarely if ever want films to be bad, and it’s even rarer that I would want a film to suck to prove a “point”. Basically, after the clusterfuck that went down in the wake of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which I still maintain is a genuinely good movie despite some definite flaws, learning that the guys behind what is properly the worst film I’ve ever sat through would be behind the next Spider-Man reboot seriously pissed me off. It even got to the point where, and I wish I was joking, I made this claim on Reddit last year:

Just so we’re clear, this is how badly I not only didn’t want to see those numbnuts get rewarded for their lack of effort, but how badly I wanted some hubris to kick in after the honestly OTT reactions ASM2 got. But as I’ve already established, I’m a bit of a fanboy for comic book movies and I’m usually a lot kinder to them than I probably should be; I may not be happy to be proven wrong in this instance but I definitely get that the possibility of it happening here is pretty high. Anyway, enough waffle, let’s see where my cold-hearted cynicism gets me as we look at the latest iteration of the New York Webslinger. This is Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Movie Review: A Monster Calls (2017)

With how many times the average person comes across it in a standard day, we tend to underappreciate the strength of storytelling. With the right words and imagery, something as mundane as what a person had for breakfast can tell some poignant things about the human condition. Or, at least, I’m assuming that’s the case; quite frankly, I can’t think of another reason why people seem to be so intent on sharing every single meal they ever have on social media. But even that easy target, how people use social media, itself is a form of storytelling. Sometimes, it’s just to provide snapshots of a person’s life that might a few disparate thoughts into place and help things make a bit more sense. Other times, it’s to completely detach from the real world for a time, absorbing one’s self in the fantastical and frequently loopy details of fiction. But there are times when we tell each other stories, and even tell ourselves certain stories, because the reality that they represent is a little too confronting to take on without some form of filter. That particular situation will be the subject of today’s film; as someone who prides cinema as a highly effective method of storytelling, I’ll admit that I’m quite curious about how this will turn out. Time to dig in and find out: This is A Monster Calls.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Movie Review: Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul (2017)

Back in 2013 when I first started out on this kick of watching any new film I could get my hands on, I for some reason decided to watch a little film called Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Dog Days. Aside from being yet another kids film that doesn’t have much value for adult audiences, it is also one of the biggest examples of White People Problems I’ve yet encountered in a modern release. Yeah, bit rich coming from someone who is white himself, but the air of privilege and minor inconvenience that so permeated the entire film can’t really be summed in any other way. That film was meant to be the final installment in a trilogy, and since none of the other films fit my purview, I considered that series closed up for business and something I wouldn’t have to bother myself with again. Then the trailers and posters for today’s film started surfacing and I went all Michael Corleone from Godfather III: “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in”. The sooner I get this over and done with, the sooner I can pull myself back out again, so let’s take a look at this latest installment and see how, somehow, it’s even worse than what came before it. This is Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Movie Review: The House (2017)

I don’t really have anything to preface this. Combining disappointment with apathy doesn’t make for the best material, especially in response to something, but as I’ll get into, that’s about the extent of this film’s level of engagement. Time to board the “Will Ferrell, what are you even doing anymore?” train once again: This is The House.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Movie Review: The Circle (2017)

Technology is an amazing thing. With a single click and a few keyboard taps, you can communicate with people on the other side of the world. Decades ago, we made jokes about how everyone thought virtual reality was the big new thing; now, I can just walk into my local game shop and pick up a headset for myself. Medicine, computing and just human invention in general have taken massive leaps and bounds and it’s only getting bigger with time. However, technology is also a very scary and potentially lethal thing. With enough know-how, that same person on the other side of the world can bring a SWAT team to your house just because you did better than them in Team Deathmatch. Decades ago, we made jokes about how the government is trying to monitor every little action we do; now, thanks to social media, we’re all pretty much giving up our every movement for public consumption willingly. Medical advancements continue to be challenged, destroying a person’s life is as simple as having the right computer program, and human ingenuity continues to reflect how flawed humans still are. With all this in mind, how does today’s techno-thriller do at discussing such issues? This is The Circle.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Movie Review: Cars 3 (2017)

For as illustrious and ground-breaking as Pixar’s legacy has been, the Cars franchise will likely always serve as the black sheep of the company paddock. Brought into existence by Pixar head honcho John Lasseter, Cars operates far more as a toy-centric marketing vehicle (heh) than as strict narrative. The first film is just okay; plenty annoying and rather plainly written compared to its contemporaries, but it’s at least serviceable for kids. The sequel, however, is a bit more complicated. I say that because it is both leagues better and leagues worse than the original. Better, in that its Michael Caine-starring spy plot is visually inventive and quite engaging; worse, because it took the most annoying supporting character from the original (Tow “I will never forgive these people for this shit” Mater) and made him the lead, boosting the Southern hick annoyance levels tremendously in the process. Still, for as inconsistent as it is, I still like it just a little bit more overall. So, a little over a decade since the original careened into cinemas, we have a threequel to deal with. Normally, I’d be rather worried about where this is going but, as I’ll get into, this film is in pretty safe hands. This is Cars 3.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Movie Review: Baby Driver (+ Q&A with Director/Writer Edgar Wright)

I briefly got into this when I went over Ant-Man, but it bears repeating: Edgar Wright is made of stone-cold awesome. Making his name with a penchant for cross-breeding genres like a cinematic alchemist, from the zombie-horror/romantic-comedy Shaun Of The Dead to the social sci-fi/martial arts action/restyled Arthurian legend of The World’s End, Wright is easily one of my all-time favourite filmmakers. In fact, I almost feel bad for first mentioning him on this blog during Ant-Man, given the rather dubious circumstances in which he left the project; knowing how good this guy is, the last thing you should hear is him being dropped over “creative differences”. Nevertheless, the man is back with a vengeance with a film that has somehow managed to outdo Get Out in terms of explosive hype; the trailers for it over here boasted a full 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, something that has since changed because nothing is perfect, and barely any films even get to that point during the press lead-up. Since this is another occasion where, even if I never picked up this critical gig, I’d still be compelled to watch his latest effort. So, how good is it? This is Baby Driver.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Movie Review: Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)

Of all the cash cows for critics of bad films, no franchise can compete with the lumbering juggernaut that is Michael Bay’s Transformers series. From the rampant idiocy on display throughout to the frequent moments of sexist, racist and otherwise crappy behaviour in the characters, right down to his widely-lampooned visual overload style of direction, Bay has been a walking target for at least a decade by this point. And finally, after showing sympathy for the guy’s more recent efforts as director and even producer, I have an excuse to get involved in this whole mess myself. To date, I have seen all the previous Transformers flicks in the cinema, and I can hardly recall a series with so many immediately and hilariously terrible moments as Bay’s ode to the adolescent boy in us all. And apparently, judging by initial press reactions, this seems to be the worst entry yet. How in the hell is that possible? Let’s dive right in and discover the extremely depressing answer. This is Transformers: The Last Knight.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Movie Review: A Quiet Passion (2017)

Well, this is awkward. As some of my more frequent readers may have noticed, I’ve been a bit out of commission for a while now, far longer than even my biggest slumps to date. This is a result of easily the most bizarre month I’ve ever had, being sick with one thing or another with severe overlap between them, to the point where I’m actually typing out this introduction from a hospital bed. Needless to say, I’m pretty bummed right now. Seeing as how trying to get back into my usual routine with a bad film didn’t work out so well last time, let’s see if I can change that with some proper cinematic soul food. Seriously, just thinking about this film is already putting me in better spirits and, by the end of this review, I hope you’ll understand why. This is A Quiet Passion.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Movie Review: Rough Night (2017)

Scarlett Johansson is one of the greatest gifts to the SF umbrella that any self-respecting geek could ever ask for. Even if the merit of the works can be debated to the ends of the Earth like Ghost In The Shell and Under The Skin, her turns as part of the MCU stable and even Lucy have secured her place as an actress who is right at home with genre films. She’s even gone beyond live-action work with some honestly unprecedented voice work for Her and The Jungle Book, giving truly amazing performances in both; very few actors are able to translate that talent this effectively. To put it simply, I have gotten to the point where I am truly excited to see whatever new film she’s attached to, knowing her verging-on-legendary pedigree over the last few years. So, how does she fare today when she steps out of that comfort zone into a ‘dark comedy’. Brace yourself for one of the most unfortunately apt titles of any film this year: This is Rough Night.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Movie Review: Despicable Me 3 (2017)

I think I owe Illumination Entertainment something of an apology. For the longest time, I always judged them mainly off of their take on Dr Seuss’ The Lorax, which still stands as one of the single worst films I’ve ever sat through in so many ways. However, that is honestly an outlier of their work: The rest of their films, in one way or another, have tapped into a sense of nostalgia for the olden days of animation and translated it quite remarkably for today’s audiences. Whether it’s the 2-D throwback of The Secret Life Of Pets to the tribute to all things musical with Sing, Illumination has secured its place in the industry as the most retro-minded studio working right now. And the crown jewel of their work to date, the series that put them on the map, is Despicable Me. Or, more specifically, the Minions that have now taken a life of their own and, whenever a new film featuring them comes out, you will doubtless see them everywhere. So, in light of the studio’s pedigree and my admitted sensitivity to overblown marketing, how does this latest installment turn out? This is Despicable Me 3.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Movie Review: The Promise (2017)

Even without getting into the premise of today’s film, this has the kind of main casting that is designed to make audiences froth in excitement. You’ve got Oscar Isaac, a true rising star who has been attached to critical and audience darlings for several years straight at this point and has even entered meme status thanks to his… interesting dance sequence from Ex Machina. Next to him, there’s Charlotte Le Bon, whom I’ll admit hasn’t exactly wowed me with her latest features, but quite frankly, she’s more than due for a proper-good production. And then there’s Christian Bale, the modern king of method acting who is well-known by this point for how seriously he takes his work. As much as I know better than I’d like how easily a promising cast can be cut down by a wasteful story, rest assured, this isn’t one of those occasions. This is The Promise.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Movie Review: All Eyez On Me (2017)

No matter how timid I may come across in these reviews, I know that talking about ideas and concepts in relation to films is still less risky than statements concerning other forms of media. Like, for instance, rap music. I will always consider myself a hip-hop head first and foremost when it comes to music, but the amount of outrage that gets generated in those circles over the most minor shit really doesn’t make me all that willing to admit to such things in public. I bring this up to help cushion the blow of what may be one of the more inflammatory statements I could make within that context: I’m not that massive on Tupac. I have respect for the guy’s place in the industry, and I certainly like some of his music, but in oh-so-popular discussions over who is the greatest MC of all time, I’m far more likely to suggest The Notorious B.I.G. than Tupac. However, with that in mind, Straight Outta Compton showed that biographical cinema and rap music intersecting could lead to great results (possibly less great than I initially thought when first watching it, but that’s a discussion for another time) so, even without absolutely loving the subject, hopefully we’ll get something similar here. Key word being “hopefully”. This is All Eyez On Me.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Movie Review: My Cousin Rachel (2017)

Oh, this is going to be a tough one to talk about. What makes that statement weird though, considering I’ve reviewed a wide spectrum of releases on this blog before, is that it isn’t even for any of the obvious reasons. I’ve mentioned how old-timey costume dramas really aren’t my thing for some reason, and writing about them isn’t something I find easy, but that’s not it. I’ve shown a certain verging-on-dickishness when discussing feminist-centric notions, something that makes those topics not exactly my favourite thing to talk about, but that’s not it either. Today’s film is a story involving incest between cousins, and to cut a potentially long and aggravating story short, I found out rather recently that apparently people still need to be convinced that incest isn’t exactly the most ideal thing to be doing with one's time. And yet, even that isn’t why this is going to be a tough review to get out there. Rather, it’s because when all three of these areas intersect with this film’s approach to framing its story, it results in a very all-over-the-place kind of production. Let’s get started and, hopefully, I’ll be able to explain why. This is My Cousin Rachel.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Movie Review: The Mummy (2017)

With Marvel sweeping in box office hit after box office hit, it seems that everyone and their backyard sound stage want to get in on this ‘shared film universe’ trend. Sure, Marvel didn’t exactly invent the idea; filmmakers like John Hughes and Kevin Smith both filled in their films with little threads that tied them together for those willing to pay attention. However, those guys did it more in passing than anything else, whereas Marvel has officially turned it into a new blossoming branch of the Hollywood franchise system. From DC’s attempts to match their graphic novel rivals to Legendary Studio’s increasingly-promising big monster franchise, even individuals like M. Night Shyamalan who seems to be setting up his own comic book-inspired world off the back of Split, this is basically the big new thing in Hollywood right now. So, naturally, it seems that Universal Pictures wants to get in on this trend as well, using today’s film as a springboard for a shared universe based on their classic cavalcade of movie monsters. Of course, if the rest of the entries in the Dark Universe series are anything resembling this, we may be in for a very bumpy ride over the next several years because this film is something truly special. This is The Mummy.

The plot: Mercenary Nick (Tom Cruise) and his partner-in-shady-dealings Chris (Jake Johnson), while searching for treasures in war-torn Iraq, uncover the tomb of Egyptian would-be-queen Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella). After accidentally releasing her from her imprisonment, Nick is brought to the attention of his ex-flame Jennifer (Annabelle Wallis) and her employer Henry (Russell Crowe), who is on a mission to rid the world of monsters. With Nick being under Ahmanet’s influence, he must work together with Jennifer and Henry in order to stop the Mummy from destroying the world and bringing the Egyptian god Set into the mortal realm.

“Let’s remake this over-10-year-old film! We’ll get Tom Cruise to star in it!” sounds like the set-up for a bad joke about how little actual creativity is going on in Hollywood, so you can imagine how well it turns out when that is actually what they did here. Don’t get me wrong, Cruise was a great choice to play this very dickish soldier of fortune, but the way he’s written, his charm falls through the cracks of the asshole that is his character. To make things weirder, it seems that his attitude on set was rather in keeping with his egocentric “I can get away with anything” on-screen persona, if Jake Johnson and the myriad of on-set stories are anything to go by. And speaking of Johnson, he’s a decent match with Cruise in terms of their character dynamics, but his comparable ability with unsavoury characters doesn’t manage to outweigh not only how annoying he can get but also how out-of-place he becomes as the film drudges on. Wallis could have become one of the biggest setbacks for female supporting roles in blockbuster films with how regressive her character is, but fortunately, she’s way too unengaging for that to be a possibility. Boutella as the big bad Mummy is alright, I suppose, but once again, I chalk her okay-ness up to the writers not really knowing what kind of villain they wanted her to be. Crowe is probably the best actor here but that’s only when he lets his darker side loose. *SPOILER* warnings now, because this review will likely be full of them: He’s playing Dr. Jekyll. Seriously. And even though it last for only 2-3 minutes, his turn as Hyde is the single best part of the film.

The writers for this film are David Koepp, whom we last checked in with last year’s abysmal Inferno, Christopher McQuarrie, the man responsible for one of the highest points of Cruise's entire career with Jack Reacher, and Dylan Kussman, largely known for his acting role in Dead Poets Society with this as his first film script. I bring all this up because, between them all, they have sizeable experience in the industry and should have a pretty good idea on what makes a working script. Unfortunately, you’d never guess that just from their efforts here because, dear God, this is one of the dumbest films I’ve seen in a very long time. This is almost classic stupid, as it has all the usual hollow bells and ear-shredding whistles of your standard idiot plot blockbuster, something we honestly haven’t gotten that much of of late (at least from what I’ve seen). The characters are written solely in terms of how they can progress the plot, resulting in character actions that make little to no sense compared to their other actions or even the context of the scenes they take place in. I mean, when you’re at the point of a character visibly dying, coming back to life and stabbing the main character’s superior officer and all without anyone noticing on-screen, you know you’re in prime shitweasel territory. What’s more, the ridiculousness of how much the film doesn’t make sense with itself only seems to accelerate once we get to the final reel, building and building until we hit a truly baffling open ending, resulting in the kind of hysterical “what the fuck did I just watch?” reaction that I haven’t experienced since Pan.

And you know what? I would perfectly fine with all of that. With how the titular Mummy’s powers manifest themselves, this is basically a dumb zombie movie with some mild Egyptian undertones; I have a real soft spot for the stupid exploits of the undead, and I have a real fascination with Egyptian theology. Unfortunately, for as goofy as this mostly is, it also has some serious tonal issues on top of that. On one side, you have Cruise (let’s not bother with character names by this point; you’re all just going to refer to him as ‘Tom Cruise’ anyway) being messed around with by the Mummy, being taken on a head trip that has him questioning what is actually happening to him. And on the other side, you have Cruise and an undead Johnson arguing in a women’s public bathroom about just letting the Mummy do with Cruise what she wants. These two halves don’t fit together; in fact, you can almost smell the cheap Clag glue used to try and hold them in place. Amidst the original-Xbox-era special effects at work and the limp action beats, there’s this lingering feeling that underneath the layers of idiocy is a potentially decent movie. Of course, it’s buried far too deep to be of any use, with the filmmakers instead going for weak jokes off the back of incredibly unlikeable and brick-headed protagonists intercut with scenes featuring the Mummy that we’re apparently meant to take seriously. Sorry but, no matter how much you try and bandage up this mess of a screenplay, it’s still dead and slowly decaying before our very eyes.

So, between the shit writing and the weak visuals, this film is already pretty bad on its own. But how is it as an introduction into the Dark Universe? Wait… Do you hear that? That faint sound in the distance as you’re reading this? That’s me laughing my head off because, even without considering its competition, this is an embarrassingly weak start to a franchise. Let’s get the small things out of the way first: This film’s lack of knowledge about Egyptian gods is matched only by its apparent lack of knowledge about Jekyll and Hyde because they manage to screw up pretty critical details in both. The film keeps bringing up Set as the Egyptian god of death, and yeah, I’m gonna be That Guy on this: Anubis is the god of death, not Set, and I learnt that from the bloody Yu-Gi-Oh movie! If a cartoon about a world-ending children’s card game can get simple details like that right and your movie can’t, you need to rethink things, especially if you’re dealing with something as reliant on minor details as a cinematic universe. But that’s small potatoes when you realize that, since Jekyll and Hyde are also in this movie for a time, they can’t even get the Universal monsters right. Like, it is weird how much they completely miss the mark with Dr. Jekyll, turning a story about the dual nature of humanity into a yarn involving catching evil like a disease, all in the space of a single on-screen conversation. I mean, I get the idea of retooling stories we all know to keep them interesting, but when said retooling involves missing the entire point of the story you’re retooling, it ceases to make any sense why they even bothered in the first place. Oh wait, they bothered because name-brand recognition and “give us money, please!”; nevermind. But here’s the real kicker: Outside of those two instances and the introduction of Jekyll’s monster hunting organization, that is literally all we get in terms of world-building. Nothing set in stone, nothing tantalized to keep audience’s attention outside of a couple vampire skulls and what I think is a scale from the Creature From The Black Lagoon and nothing that ultimately makes it seem like this universe has that many places to go from here.

All in all, this is the new Battlefield Earth. Think about it: Lead actor with heavy ties to Scientology who made the entire film his own passion project, woeful production values, rock-stupid writing which still carries traces of Scientologist doctrine (treating human evil as a foreign element that can be removed with the right ‘treatments’) and attempts at grandeur and scope that fall hideously short; the only thing missing is the legendarily awful camera work and this would tick every box possible. Hell, say what you will about Dracula Untold, the last attempt by Universal to kick off this sort of franchise, but it looks like Iron Man compared to this thing.

But the weirdest part of all this is that I’m not even mad; I’m certainly bewildered and holding back laughing fits as I type this out, but I’m not mad. Because this is the kind of film that film critics, particularly those on YouTube et al. whose bread-and-butter are bad Hollywood movies, are going to be very happy with. Give it about a year, and I guarantee that you’ll see video reviews for this popping up in a lot of places; films like this, where the review material is practically gift-wrapped, are very rare and those that have that quality usually go down into bad movie legend. This is one of those films and, honestly, I wouldn’t mind the Dark Universe going ahead if they’re as consistently dreadful as this. With online film critique as a profession being particularly volatile right now, it’d be nice to know there’s a steady stream of work out there. This ranks lower than Table 19, which may have been far duller than this (and this film definitely gives you your money’s worth in unintentional hilarity) but it is far more competently-made as a film. Budgets exceeding $100 million shouldn’t look this cheap. However, with that spike of hysterical enjoyment I got at this film’s expense in mind, this wasn’t any kind of serious letdown for me; honestly, I didn’t have any real expectations going into this. As such, this still ranks higher with me than A Cure For Wellness, which still continues to piss me off.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Movie Review: Wonder Woman (2017)

As a means to contrast the enduring sense of dread I had in the lead-up to the release of Baywatch (you know, before I ended up liking it), today’s film has been a long and steady process of chanting “please don’t suck” over and over again every time I saw the marketing for this film. Knowing what DC is capable of in terms of stories, and how much their recent efforts have been underwhelming (I didn’t give nearly enough flack for the whole Granny’s Peach Tea insanity from BvS: Dawn Of Justice when I first reviewed it), I seriously wish that they would stop falling under their own strain and just make the DC Extended Universe worth watching. The closest we’ve gotten so far is Suicide Squad, and even then it ranks up there in terms of the most bewildering fanboy rage quits in recent years; it honestly seems like I’m one of the few people who was willing to give that film a chance. So, in the wake of this film’s alarmingly warm reception, am I going to join the crowd for once or am I going to be the lone jackass wondering what the hell everyone else is seeing? Only one way to find out: This is Wonder Woman.