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6 stars

San Andreas

San Andreas

With his massive muscular boobs and her brains, of course they'll save
their daughter, or at least they'll take the rest of the town down with them

dir: Brad Peyton

2015

Every year has to have a big disaster flick where chunks of America, if not the whole world, and let’s face it, to Americans America is the whole world, are destroyed.

Some years it’s tornadoes, other years it’s meteors or comets, or aliens, or tsunamis.

This year it’s earthquakes.

I would tentatively ask why this yearning, insatiable desire is imagined to always exist in the broader audience, but then most of the people who went to see this flick were living far from the gentle land of roaming buffalos and stripper poles gleaming from sea to shining sea.

Yep, non-Americans pay to watch Americans dying in great numbers.

That sounds awful to me, but hey, I’m just a guy watching a disaster movie.

The standard template of disaster flicks is still the defense of the family. It’s never (anymore) trying to prevent the disaster from happening, or stopping a catastrophic situation from getting worse. That horse has bolted. You could make some argument about the Sep 11 attacks, but I’m not going to make it. I think it’s true, but it’s an argument I don’t want to have.

The only reason to watch a flick like this is to watch CGI depictions of mass destruction in awe-inspiring “Oh FUCK!” ways. The people, man, the people suck.

Rating:

Jurassic World

Jurassic World

Grab your partner by the claw, heel and toe, heel and toe, slide.

dir: Colin Trevorrow

2015

Look, I realise that a flick this big hardly requires a review. It’s like reviewing the moon, or an ocean, or nitrogen. Jurassic World is one of the biggest movies ever, with billions of dollars earned thus far.

In that case, why not? Why not? Surely it means everyone and their dog’s fleas saw the flick, and so it’ll be common parlance / water cooler fodder for months and years to come?

Or will it be forgotten just as swiftly as last week’s outrages / blockbusters / fish and chips?

Some of that contemporary mentality, of instant gratification and immediate dissatisfaction, is part of the fabric of the flick. This, the fourth in the series, is the first sequel to really mirror the events of the first film. The first direct sequel, in that the second and third flicks could effectively not exist at all and it would impact not one whit.

Quite often, with science fiction flicks, the point or moral of the story is that people shouldn’t play God, and that they never learn from other people’s mistakes or their own. This amnesia and hubris underlines almost every cautionary sci-fi tale of the last 100 years. What makes Jurassic World additionally galling is that you have people fully aware of what disaster occurred in the first place, who go ahead anyway and replicate the circumstances of the first flick just on a grander scale.

Rating:

Terminator Genisys

Terminator Genisys

It's all from the future, but just like the past, but there's more
of it, so it's comforting? Audiences, rejoice!

dir: Alan Taylor

2015

We don’t need another hero. We don’t need to know the way home. All we want is life beyond Endless Sequels, Reboots and Thunderdome.

We probably don’t need more Terminator movies either, truth be told. It is not shameful to admit when you’ve had enough of something. It’s considered appropriate to leave at least a little bit of food on your plate when fine dining in the homes of the high and mighty, to show a modicum of self-restraint and forbearance, or at least that’s what it says in my copy of Emily Post’s Etiquette guide, which I always scrupulously follow to the letter in this as in all things.

So it’s okay if, as a nation, as a species, we say politely but firmly “No, but thank you” when more Terminator is offered to us. Audiences didn’t thrill to this at the box office, because I’m not sure that anyone understood the idea that there was any more story to tell.

Thus far, including this one, there have been five Terminator movies. Also, two seasons of a television series relating the adventures of Sarah and John Connor, with no Austrian cyborgs in sight. You could argue, from a nostalgic perspective, that since the idea and the image of the Terminator itself is so engrained in pop culture, that saying “no” is churlish because it’s so well known.

Rating:

Fast & Furious 7

Fast & Furious 7

Based on this pic I would have thought the movie was about Oaks Day at
Flemington Races. Ladies get drunk half price!

dir: James Wan

2015

Look, I was all prepared to rip the shit out of this flick as if it were any of the other Fast & Furious flicks, all of which are terrible, all of which deserve derision, but the simple fact is I couldn’t do it: I simply couldn’t completely hate this flick.

It’s shameful to admit that the elegiac tone unintentionally and intentionally smeared all over the flick because of the death of one of its leads, being Paul Walker, makes it hard to run it down completely. It means I am not as capable of the objectivity and clinical distance one demands of a film reviewer or a neurologist, either/or. You feel like a bit of a prick putting the boot in on a man’s last endeavour.

And I didn’t even particularly like Paul Walker, in this franchise or pretty much anything else he did in life. But still. It’s sad. He had a daughter, after all, and his death was horrible, just horrible. I won’t go into the details, suffice to say it’s a horrible way for a young, attractive man to die. And it most certainly was not his fault.

In movies I mostly found him a blank presence, a kind of bland stand-in for some other actor that they couldn’t afford. He was perfectly fine when he wasn’t talking, but the moment he started speaking the illusion would fall apart.

With his mouth closed he was like a young, dangerous Paul Newman. Talking, he was Pauly Shore.

Rating:

Woman in Gold

Woman in Gold

Some things are worth fighting for, especially when they're
worth hundreds of millions of dollars

dir: Simon Curtis

2015

This is not a colour afflicted sequel to either The Woman in Black horror flicks or The Woman in White, the classic Wilkie Collins pot boiler. Or The Woman in Red, the classic 80s flick with Gene Wilder and Kelly Le Brock. Rawr! The sexual chemistry just burned up the screen, it did.

It’s something far more laden with importance and weighty significance. It’s based on a true story, in some ways an incredibly true story, and its very title is an affront and a lingering insult to the people affected/afflicted by the Nazis.

Austria. Vienna. In some ways this flick and a lot of ink spilled in the last half century have argued about the complicated relationship people have with that great nation and city. It spawned great art and architecture. It spawned a dictator too, who tried to consume all of Europe with his Jew-hating madness, which in turn consumed much of the rest of the world, too.

Unfortunately for me, and for one of the protagonists here, one can’t look at the clean lines and fascist architecture of the place even now without seeing the horror of back then. This flick, more than anything else, is about trying to make right something that under no circumstances can be made right.

Rating:

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Uplifting! Uproarious! Superannuated! Now I need a lie down.

dir: John Madden

2015

Why wouldn’t you?

Why wouldn’t you make a sequel to such a successful movie? I mean, every white middle class Anglo-Saxon over the age of 65 in Britain and Australia was obligated by law to go and see the first one or risk having their Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and pensioner cards ripped up in front of them, so why not?

Well, call me the querulous voice of pedantic temperance: this flick really has no reason to exist, like most sequels. Was there anything desperately necessary for the makers or the characters to do or say?

No, not really. But many of these actors, being national treasures, deserve every opportunity to continue sitting there in front of a camera complaining about the pain in their hips or knees. And I begrudge them nothing. As long as someone gets them a nice cup of tea and puts a blanket over their knees.

With many of these elders, I could literally sit there watching them talk about tea or textile content percentages and consider it time well spent. They’ve earned it. Dame Judi Dench and Dame Maggie Smith are Dames, for crying out loud. That’s not an exaggeration or a term of endearment. They’re literally Dames! As in knighted by the goddamn queen. If anyone deserves to coast along and not do much and still be thought of as wonderful, it’s them.

So, yeah, I’m always glad to spend time with them. Many of the other people in this film? Meh…

Rating:

Chappie

Chappie

This little tyke is just learning his ABCs, but can also
rip your bloody arms off! Auntie Jack would be so proud

dir: Neill Blomkamp

2015

I mentioned in a recent review that, fortuitously or not, the week I saw this was a week in which a couple of other AI-related movies came out, and that this was a significantly different version from the other.

How different? Well, if you’re a fan of South African hip hop outfit Die Antwoord, (let’s face it, why would anyone be?), you can delight yourself by watching a flick where they mostly star mostly playing themselves using their stage names, and oh yeah there also happens to be a robot hanging around with them too.

The Johannesburg police have been replaced with robots, or at least supplemented with them. One of the engineers working on the goofy robots gets this idea that he wants to create a cop robot that has self-awareness. How does he achieve this? Um, somehow.

A defective robot is his guinea pig, into which he inserts a magical program that will, all other things being equal, let him appreciate art and maybe write poetry one day.

The defective robot itself has only a short time frame in which to experience all that life can provide. The creator, whom Chappie refers to as ‘Creator’, didn’t do this deliberately as a control or anything, or to be cruel. It’s just that, you know, like the benevolent and all powerful yet insecure deity of the Old Testament that ‘created’ us with a use-by date, it’s a feature, not a deliberate bug.

Rating:

Welcome to Me

Welcome to Me

This image doesn't convey at all just how weird this flick is and just
how awful she can be. Hiding your awfulness behind sunglasses is
an old, old trick

dir: Shira Piven

2014

Well. That happened.

This is one of those flicks where you can safely say if Kristen Wiig wasn’t in it, the flick would never have been made. And had it never been made, would the world have been any better or worse off?

Welcome to Me is a mildly interesting flick, but not an entirely satisfying one. It’s hard to imagine a more satisfying version of this same story, because I’m not sure such a thing would really be possible.

It has, at its core, a main character who is transcendentally kind of awful. Alice Kleig (Kristen Wiig) maybe doesn’t mean to be, but she is struggling with, at the very least, borderline personality disorder, according to her long-suffering therapist (Tim Robbins).

She has one friend, Gina (Linda Cardellini), a gay ex-husband (Alan Tudyk) who inexplicably still dotes on her, and a completely distorted sense of the world and her place in it.

We know right off the bat that her own personal psychiatric history shapes the majority of her interactions with the world, or at least her sense of it, but we are also giving the clear impression that television is responsible as well.

Rating:

What We Do In the Shadows

What We Do In the Shadows

A proud alternative family, like the Addams family, just less interesting

dirs: Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi

2014

From the very start, as the logo for the New Zealand Documentary Board makes its scratched and dusty way onto the screen, we know we’re in for a real low rent experience.

Well, it would have to be. At this stage of the game, a film about vampires has to be doing something extraordinary in order to be worthy of our interest. Surely we had reached vampire saturation even before the Twilight movies drove a poorly acted stake through the genre?

Well, instead of an extraordinary take on the genre, what we have here is an extremely ordinary take on the genre.

Not typified solely by its low budget, which perhaps enhances rather than detracts from the experience, at least in theory, What We Do In the Shadows depicts these creatures of the night as the complete antithesis of the charismatic and highly fuckable vampires that we’re more used to.

These vampires live in a filthy sharehouse, they speak in heavy Transylvanian by way of Kiwi accents, and they live in that renowned haven of the undead, Wellington, New Zealand.

Rating:

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Kingsman

Now that's not something you see every day, at least, not on
a day you get to survive

dir: Matthew Vaughn

2015

Damn, I’m getting old.

There was a time when something like this would have been like sweet, sweet crack to me. I would have embraced its charms and indulged its weaknesses in the pursuit of an action high otherwise rarely approached.

But for some reason, many reasons, while I enjoyed parts of this James Bond update, I couldn’t help but feel that it was, to use the technical film school term, pretty fucking dreadful.

The Bond template is not a rarely used one, in fact, there are probably thousands of films bouncing around in your memory that used the formula. In its purest form, though, it’s still fairly generic. The difference here is that it’s paired with the adolescent wish fulfilment only Mark Millar can come up with. It also produces a vision of Britishness so arch and so unbelievable that it amazes me that the director is a Brit and that Millar, who originally wrote the shitty comic this is based on, is a Scot.

They conjure a vision of Britain less grounded in reality and less believable than the Harry Potter films.

Rating:

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