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6 stars

Anomalisa

Anomalisa

Is there a word for a type of mental condition where you see movies and think
that every character in them is played by a puppet and that they all have
the same voice?

dir: Charlie Kaufman

2015

Anomalisa is a pretty depressing film, at least I found it depressing. It’s possible that I found it depressing because it seems to be about depression, or at least the main character seems to be suffering from it.

It’s also… an odd film to describe, and it sounds far more amusing to describe than it ends up being. Being from the mind of Charlie Kaufman, he who came up with the screenplays for such out there and phenomenal stuff as Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, you are right to expect that there’s some strange artistry going on. And there is.

To say that the story is entirely told with puppets again makes this sound comical, but in reality this is stop motion animation with some very expressive and articulated puppets. It’s also in the service of a story mostly set in or around a drab hotel room.

Rating:

Suffragette

Suffragette

How could they not succeed in their efforts when they have access to
such resolute, steadfast facial expressions?

dir: Sarah Gavron

2015

There is a problem inherent in this movie, at least from my perspective. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan both of women voting and of the people who fought for and earned the right (that should have been theirs from the start) to vote in Britain’s stupid, stupid elections.

Wait, why ‘stupid’? Well, tell me what point there is to enfranchising more than half the population of the United Kingdom when the House of Lords, the most transparently undemocratic institution since Robert Mugabe came to power as the ‘democratically’ elected dictator of Zimbabwe that’s only been around and certainly unreformed since, oh, about 1350, still bloody well exists.

It’s like Russian women having the right to vote: you have a dictator for life in the form of Vladimir Putin – who cares if you have the right to vote?

Well, whether it actually means anything, or whether it’s a smokescreen established to hide the fact that we vote for one of two sock puppets operated by the same person (you may have heard of that person, they’re known as The Man), the fact is that at the dawn of the previous century, the sisters in Britain had decided that they no longer wanted to politely ask to be allowed to vote.

Out the window went the cucumber sandwiches and the parasols, and in came blowing shit up, smashing windows, being tortured by the cops and doing what militant actions they could intended to force the government to capitulate.

Rating:

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:

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