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7 stars

Lion

Lion

You could almost think this was a love story from the poster

dir: Garth Davis

2016

This is perhaps not a wonderful film. The fact that it is based on a true story perhaps means it deserves slack being cut its way. That being said, it is a very emotional flick to watch. What matters is whether it earns the emotions it insists, almost at gunpoint, that the audience feel.

And I felt them, oh gods in heaven did I feel them. Parts of this flick are deeply disturbing, and parts are wrenching. But what does it add up to?

It is such a compelling story, at least some aspects of it. The first section of the film, and the section that I daresay most people will think draws you in the most, shows two boys, at some time in the 80s trying to steal coal from a moving train. Now, I don’t support this kind of criminal behaviour, mostly because brown coal is, like, the total worst for the environment, but when we see why they steal the goddamn coal (to exchange it for two small bags of milk), you realise that these kids aren’t exactly criminal masterminds.

No, they ain’t slinging crack or shooting byatches upside their dome pieces for mad money – they’re two poor kids who lament how hard their labourer mother (Priyanka Bose) works, and they try to ease her burdens. For a bit of milk.

Rating:

Kubo and the Two Strings

Kubo and the Two Strings

He's got a sword, and he's going to stab the moon with it

dir: Travis Knight

2016

I wanted to love this, I really did. I love most of the stuff that the animators at Laika Entertainment have come up with thus far. They’re idiosyncratic as purveyors of animation, getting the distinctive look you’re not going to confuse with any of the other studios that comes from still using a lot of stop-motion (physical) animation in their movies.

It’s certainly the brightest and best looking of their works, shiniest and cleanest, compared to Coraline, The Boxtrolls and ParaNorman, which all looked somewhat gothic (in Coraline’s case) or a bit gangrenous. They were shooting for a mass audience, and they didn’t get it, which is a bit of a shame.

It’s ambitious, too. It opens with a woman in a boat trying to get somewhere in a terrible storm, one which wrecks her little boat and wounds her terribly, but even worse she is not alone. A baby boy is with her, and they crawl together into a cave to die.

It’s a very idyllic cave, beautiful ocean views, though probably a bit drafty. Some time passes, and the baby becomes a boy, and what a boy. He looks after his damaged mother, who sits motionless all day, and raises money for some rice by telling stories at a nearby village.

Rating:

Midnight Special

Midnight Special

He's not from around here and he's not like us and he looks a bit funny.
And the kid's a bit weird, too.

dir: Jeff Nichols

2016

Strange yet familiar. That can be a potent combination. It can also be a boring one that fails to elicit any feelings, positive or negative.

Midnight Special is strange, certainly, as is any flick in which you have bug-eyed Michael Shannon in any role. He brings the weird to virtually any flick he’s in, no matter how large or small the role. He’s just that kind of guy. But the real ‘twist’ here is that Michael Shannon’s character isn’t the villain, or some random paranoid lunatic screaming about the doom that awaits us all, but a caring father trying to protect his special-needs son from this harsh and uncaring world.

Well, actually, as in many of these situations, it’s sometimes the world that needs to be protected from them.

This isn’t the origin story for some superhero kid, but it almost plays out like it should be. It’s very much all mysterious in the beginning. Two grunting guys in a car with a kid along for the ride drive recklessly through the night getting away from something or towards something else. We know the cops are after them, but we don’t know why.

Rating:

X-Men: Apocalypse

X-Men: Apocalypse

I'm sure only good things will come from this guy being
in charge, got a good feeling about this.

dir: Bryan Singer

2016

It’s really not as bad as they're saying.

I’ve even heard that most graven of insults: “It’s as bad as Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice”, which is the new benchmark for a superhero flick sucking more powerfully than a locomotive, and more grimly than a stubble-covered arse cheek.

It’s nowhere near as bad as all that, in fact it’s probably on a par with most of the X-Men flicks, and is definitely better, at the very least, than III: The Last Stand.

The director, Bryan Singer, hopes you’ll be reminded of how bad that one was when you’re watching this. In case you didn’t already know how much he hated the fact that Fox Studios let Brett Ratner direct it, he made a flick (being the last one, Days of Future Past) with the express intention of annulling, undoing, revising and expunging everything that happened in The Last Stand.

And I’m not exactly complaining. I’m not exactly caring, either, but that’s beside the point. I’m not really invested in these X-Men flicks, because, honestly, caring about movies based on comic-book properties is not a strategy that pays off.

Comparing it with the fiasco that was the terrible B v S isn’t a fruitful path to take, and it just causes me pain, anyway, having to remember the sheer depth and breadth of its awfulness.

Rating:

The Hateful Eight

Hateful Eight

A weekend trip to the snow turns into a nightmare for a bunch of racists
and a black man who likes killing racist white people in Quentin Tarantino's
8th film, The Hateful Eight! Be sure to take your racist Trump-voting grandmother
along to enjoy it too

dir: Quentin Tarantino

2015

I haven’t always loved his movies, but I’d be lying if I implied that I was anything less than excited whenever a new one of his movies comes out. Genuinely excited.

Remember what that was like: looking forward to a Tarantino movie? For some people that anticipation stopped just after Pulp Fiction, but me, well, I’ve liked most of the stuff he’s ever done. I know it sounds uncritical and fanboyish, but I generally do enjoy watching his movies. His movies about movies are just so movie-ish that a lot of the time I can’t help but love them as I’m watching them.

It doesn’t always pay off. It rarely pays off to have high expectations in life, I’m increasingly finding, especially when it comes to the films of Quentin Horatio Tarantino.

I generally feel sadness when I hear of people passing away. It’s a normal human thing. Even with people I don’t know. I was saddened to hear when Sally Menke died back in 2010.

Who’s Sally Menke, you may rightfully ask? She used to be the editor who painstakingly worked with Tarantino on his movies, up until Inglourious Basterds. That’s one of the reasons why the enjoyment in watching his flicks has ticked down somewhat for me since then.

Rating:

The Lights

The Lights

So, when was the last time you ever heard someone saying that
going into the lights would be a good idea? Everyone knows by
now not to go into the lights. And yet...

dir: Christopher Krupka

2015

It’s amazing what you can do with no budget, a bunch of people, a couple of cheap cameras and some terrifying sound design.

The Lights is an Australian horror flick that is unpolished, messy and very clunky in some ways, and it’s definitely an exponent of the found footage horror genre, which are a sequence of words alone that could make people flee to the hills, but in some quite powerful ways it succeeds in what it sets out to do.

There’s no doubt that it could have benefited from some more money, maybe a little more time on the script. But there is no doubting that even if The Lights uses a bunch of familiar elements in familiar ways, it still manages to do exactly what it sets out to do: unsettle, confuse and terrify.

A lot of horror flicks use the found footage conceit, yet the way it’s used in The Lights is somewhat confusing. Someone, someone who we hear ask questions of some of the participants / survivors, is filming whatever’s going on (with a few scenes of other footage thrown in from phones and other cameras as well) giving it the feel of a ramshackle documentary spliced with found footage. But whoever the unseen person filming is, despite the fact that we know it’s not one of the main four characters, there’s no real explanation as to who they are and why they’re filming.

Rating:

Sicario

Sicario

She looks like she could shoot you unless you give her a cookie.
For your own safety, just give her a cookie

dir: Denis Villeneuve

2015

Well that was… harrowing.

If you haven’t already seen it, and don’t know what it means, the word ‘sicario’ basically means ‘assassin’, as in, someone who kills people for money.

I can’t claim any particular knowledge of Spanish that let me know this previously, but I did already know the term, mostly because of a weird Colombian film by Barbet Schroeder from ages ago called Our Lady of Assassins, or, as I knew it when I saw it, La Virgen de los Sicarios.

Why do I recall something like this from 15 years ago? Well, I had the movie poster on my wall. Back then when paper still existed, you’d pick up all the free posters from places like Cinema Nova that you could because they provided cheap and slickly well produced camouflage, perfect for hiding the damaged walls in rental properties from nosy property managers.

It’s something I’ve never forgotten, not because it was a good film, but because how could I forget such a concept? Teenage assassins wearing protective amulets of the Virgin Mary, praying to her to help them in their assassinations? It’s beyond absurd, it’s child-like and monstrous at the same time. Imagine the cognitive dissonance caused by trying to reconcile the concept that Jesus’s mother wants you to shoot some guy in the face, and will protect you until you do so.

Rating:

Everest

Everest

The feeling that you had, gazing upon the mountain with awe and holy
terror, that you shouldn't have dared to try to climb it? That's the one you
should have gone with, peeps, definitely.

dir: Baltasar Kormakur

2015

“Because it’s there” is a terrible reason to do anything.

I would argue that it’s the dumbest reason to do anything in this world, in this life, let alone climb the world’s tallest mountain.

If someone asks you why you’re climbing Mount Everest, I would argue that you need a much better response than that. Perversely, it’s inadequate for me because plenty of people have already climbed the bloody thing, and, it’s killed so, so many people in the attempt.

I am obviously not the kind of person to whom this kind of stuff appeals. To me, and I don’t want to seem unkind to the families of people who lost their lives climbing this mountain or any other mountain, it seems both the height of arrogance and the nadir of stupidity to deliberately put yourself in a horribly dangerous situation for no actual need or benefit. At this stage, climbing to the top of Mount Everest’s only purpose is so that you can say to people “I climbed Mount Everest”.

Even then, I don’t really see the benefit of it. Unless it somehow results in the perfect formulation in bars and clubs of “Hey. I climbed Mount Everest” always leading to “Well, I guess I absolutely have to fuck you, then” it really doesn’t mean that much to me.

Rating:

Ant-Man

Ant-Man

I can't tell you how much I love this poster. It's like the
greatest poster ever

dir: Peyton Reed

2015

You know what? It’s not so bad.

In fact, considering these hyperinflationary times, where each new Marvel product comes out with even more characters whose backstories we don’t care about and even more fights / explosions with robots / aliens we care even less about, this flick almost comes as something of a relief.

What amazing power does this latest superhero have?

He can shrink down to the size of an ant.

An Ant! Isn’t that almost… cute?

Since he’s not just another superspy / immortal god / indestructible green / blue / robot suited dingus, there isn’t the same kind of same same same story told. Not to imply that much of a story is told (it’s still built upon a house of clichés, but they’re different clichés this time!), but it makes something of a change from the endless parade of superpowered galloots that are polluting our movie and television screens currently.

He’s not a vigilante wanting to avenge his dead parents/wife/child; he hasn’t been bit by a radioactive anything; he’s not an alien with superpowers just because his adoptive planet has a yellow sun: he’s just a dude, and he can get real small when he wants to.

Rating:

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

Rogue Nation

The impossible mission is finding things that Tom Cruise hasn't already
dangled himself off of yet.

dir: Christopher McQuarrie

2015

There is not ever too much Tom Cruise in a Tom Cruise movie, according to Tom Cruise. It’s unlikely that, when he’s the one producing a movie that he’s the star of, you can ever say to him “Maybe, you know, you don’t need to be in every single shot?”

The makers of these movies have decided the problem with the other Mission: Impossible movies is that there wasn’t enough screentime for Tom Cruise in them. I know what you’re thinking: too much Cruise is barely enough, but there are ways and means of improving things, definitely.

There might have been a point where the Mission: Impossible story was considered to be one about an elite team of spies with elite skills who work together to save the world / beat the bad guys / make a nice sandwich, but somewhere along the way it became all about Cruise all the time.

I’m not going to feign confusion or lie to you: this isn’t the flick where it all falls apart. That ship sailed a long time ago. The team long ago stopped being a team and just became a group of other people who hang around so Ethan Hunt has someone to talk to while he does his amazing thang, whatever it is. They’ve always been the support personnel: the janitors, the a/v people, the guys doing the soundcheck, the girls delivering tea and cakes on a trolley.

Rating:

Minions

Minions

Yes, they are stupid, adorably stupid, like all the best movie characters

dir: Pierre Coffin & Kyle Balda

2015

Minions. Small yellow idiots. Minions.

They have their own film now. The makers of Despicable Me thought there was too much of talking humans in those flicks, too much Steve Carrell using a Russian accent. So they felt the need to give us the origin story of these allegedly lovable yellow idiots.

Make no mistake, they are complete idiots. They are also, strangely enough, immortal beings, the movie posits, that have been alive since the dawn of life on this hellish planet. And through the ages they have latched onto whichever is the biggest and baddest predator they can find.

It may seem like evolution has dictated that they have a symbiotic relationship with nature’s greatest ‘villains’, but their innocent, mindless actions usually end up killing the thing they love. Maybe evolution doesn’t really come into it, since they don’t die, they don’t change; they just keep accidentally doing what they do best.

Maybe that is Nature at work: maybe some of these predators, be they Tyrannosaurus Rexes or Napoleon, need to be put down in order to restore balance to an ecosystem, be it during the Jurassic era or 18th Century Europe. They don’t want to kill their master, but they do it anyway. Maybe they are divine yellow Furies, sent by the gods to punish egomaniacs for their hubris, for their temerity, for daring to think themselves the equals of the gods.

Rating:

The Age of Adaline

Age of Adaline

In The Age of Adaline, the Avengers attempt to save the world from a
quiet immortal woman living in San Francisco looking after a succession of
dogs. The Avengers lose because she's just so charming, with her
1920s levelheadedness and snappy dress sense.

dir: Lee Toland Krieger

2015

Fantasy? Romance? Fantasy romance?

Whatever perfect combination of both those concepts you could wish for.

What is this film about? Well, it’s…

Hard to say. It’s about immortality and love, and hiding, and time.

That there is a strange element to the story is a given, since it’s about a woman who’s over a hundred years old but who doesn’t look a day over 25. What it’s ultimately saying about life and love, well, I have no idea, because I wasn’t able to figure it out whilst watching it.

I’ve thought about it some more since then. Still nothing.

Adaline (Blake Lively) looks like a young woman living in San Francisco. Upon travelling to her place of work she reminisces about her youth while watching archival footage of San Fran 100 years ago. If her faraway expression wasn’t enough, a serious, sober voiceover starts telling us stuff as if we, and not Adaline, are watching a documentary.

This is not a documentary, in case I haven’t yet made it painfully obvious. Adaline floats through most of the movie, elegant and detached from all around her. Why?

Well, people would get freaked out since she doesn’t age. And she doesn’t want a visit from the FBI/Gestapo again, where they once grabbed her, presumably for the purposes of experimentation, and yet they did it so incompetently that she was able to get away.

Rating:

Ex Machina

There's appropriate touching, there's inappropriate touching,
and then there's "This touching is an abomination unto the Lord".

dir: Alex Garland

2015

It’s funny that I’ve gotten to watch two films with pretty much the same premise within less than a week of each other (or their release), and yet they take the same basic story (artificial intelligence) and go in two completely oppositional directions.

Both have flaws, but they’re interesting, to me at least. The other flick I’m talking about is Chappie, but I’m not going to spend this review talking about a different flick. Even if there’s far more bizarre stuff to talk about with the other flick.

This flick takes a cool, calm approach to its subject matter. It’s basically a three-hander, well, maybe four, confined to one location (an incredible looking place in Norway, part carved out of the earth, part high tech glacier?), with muted themes and even more muted action (before the ending). Mostly, it’s a film where a guy called Caleb (Domhnall Gleason) chats with his boss Nathan (Oscar Isaac) and someone else called Ava (Alicia Vikander).

Someone else… someone else. This someone else is not as others might be. She possesses a very expressive face for something that is basically just a very complicated iPhone. And boobs too. Why would you put boobs on a robot?

Well, apparently there are very good reasons. Boobs can be a lot of things to a lot of people. They can also be a great diversion or an even better distraction.

Rating:

Top Five

Top Five

Let's walk around for a while and who knows what might happen

dir: Chris Rock

2014

Oh, how hard it must be, to be rich and successful! Doesn’t your heart go out to the struggling celebs, whose lives are irretrievably destroyed by the wealth and the constant temptations of the flesh that most of us will never know of, let alone imagine?

I know mine does. Each morning and before I lay me down to sleep on my bed of nails, as I dutifully put on my hairshirt, I pray to the sweet Lord above and below that He look after all those successful comedians who are struggling to be taken seriously as dramatic actors. Then I wipe a tear away and sleep the sleep of the wicked.

Chris Rock directs and stars in a film where he seems to be playing a thinly veiled variation on Chris Rock. Well, maybe that’s not entirely accurate. At least he calls his character “Andre Allen”. And this “Andre Allen” character is way more famous than Chris Rock is. This Andre Allen is like Brad Pitt – Katy Perry – Angela Lansbury famous, being mobbed on the streets and being driven everywhere in limos.

There are key differences, though. The character he plays here is in recovery, is afraid of comedy, and desperately seeks the approval of some film critic called James who hates his work with an unholy passion. I wonder if circumstances will present him with an opportunity to get back at his nemesis?

Rating:

Faults

Faults

The Leader is good, The Leader is great, we surrender
our will as of this date!

dir: Riley Stearns

2014

There are probably a bunch of faults in Faults. You wouldn’t really put those faults down to the budget, because this flick has none. I have rarely if ever seen a movie with recognisable actors in it with as much of a budget absence as this.

Let me put it this way, in my pockets I have more money than was perhaps spent on any aspect of the making of or distribution of this movie.

It shouldn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. Constraints often force film makers to come up with intriguing solutions. It’s just that the budget is so, so tiny that you have to figure the makers made it out of a deep love of the subject matter.

Or they just really, really love cults.

I’ve never been, even as a child, prone at all to the temptations of subsuming myself into any group’s loving embrace, whether it be religious, philosophical, political or otherwise. I just don’t have that belonging feeling. I’m sure the people that do get sucked into these entities probably believed likewise about themselves. I’m sure there’s a few Scientologists who still think they made the right decision to sign on for a billion years of service, and that their decision made perfect sense at the time and even to this day.

Rating:

John Wick

John Wick

This is a complicated film about a man who can't afford a razor, who
has to get revenge on people for making fun of him. They deserve
everything they get

dirs: Chad Stahelski and David Leitch

2014

Did you miss seeing the lump of pale wood known as Keanu Reeves punching and shooting hundreds of people to death? I mean, it’s been a while since the Matrix movies. Yeah, so they left a bad taste in everyone’s mouths with that last one, but remember when a black clad Keanu kicked all sorts of ass?

Well, other people remember too. Maybe Keanu hasn’t done much of note in the last 12 years, maybe he has. He was gifted by the gods of cinema with good lucks and a wooden aura that he projects into virtually every role in every movie whose title doesn’t start with either the words Point or Bill and Ted’s.

But so what? Who really wants Keanu to be a decent actor? He just needs to turn up and let stuff happen around him. That’s a skill in and of itself. Sometimes that’s more than enough. Half decent directors can work with that. Sure, it reduces him to little more than a complicated prop, but so what? Women have suffered that indignity in almost every other movie made over the last hundred years, why not render Keanu the object in the movies he’s in.

Rating:

The Book of Life

The Book of Life

Live your life so people remember you fondly, seems to be the
message, either that or "Don't Die!", whichever.

dir: Jorge Gutierrez

2014

Sure, there are plenty of animated movies, perhaps too many of them, but few of them are based around the Mexican Day of the Dead, which isn’t, inherently, the kind of topic you’d think appropriate for kid fare.

There have been a few death-themed animations of the modern era, connected to Tim Burton (but not directed by him, since he never directed Nightmare Before Christmas, ParaNorman, Coraline or any of those: people just always assume he must have). It’s understandable, in that they aren’t that common. It’s a tough sell as a theme to the marketplace. Not the kids, who I’m sure mostly would be curious, if not Delighted!

It’s more their uneasy parents. Uneasy parents like me. I have long held that there is an association, a connection between kids accepting the mortality of the people around them and their own mortality, and the end of childhood. In the otherwise deeply terrible movie The Crow, the villain is introduced talking to his sister, saying something along the lines of “Childhood ends when you realise you’re gonna die”.

It’s irrational, I know, but I’ve never let go of that line. You’d think the take away I should have, um, taken away from that terrible movie is not to watch The Crow movies ever again. Instead I’ve managed to make the avoidance of talking about Death a staple of my lackadaisical and lacklustre parenting.

Rating:

The Water Diviner

Water Diviner

Rusty still has that "I'd kill you for the sandwich you're
eating" look in his eye, even in his attempt at 'prestige'
award bait drama! Is there nothing he can't not do?

dir: Russell Crowe

2014

I never thought I’d be typing the words “dir: Russell Crowe” at the beginning of one of my reviews, but then we live in a brave, new world where anything is apparently possible.

Anything is possible, to the extent that Crowe could make and star in a flick set around Gallipoli, and that it actually ends up being an okay film that I enjoyed.

Even more perplexing is that this is one of the few flicks I can think of where the Australians aren’t praised to the high heavens for their sun bronzed bravery on the sands of Gallipoli, and the Turks aren’t demonised for their actions defending their homeland. It may be this great nation’s foundation myth, but its utility in magnifying how great we Aussies truly are (for dying in great numbers in the service of the British Empire) isn’t used here.

It’s a far more personal story, in that it’s mostly about one chap (Crowe, good ol’ Australia’s Own Kiwi Rusty Crowe) trying to find the remains of his three sons who went and died on the shores of Gallipoli. So it’s not about re-prosecuting the war, or depicting a bunch of larrikins fighting and dying in splendidly heroic ways: it’s about a father wanting to fulfil his wife’s most heartfelt wish that her boys, if only in spirit, could be brought home to her.

Rating:

Selma

Selma

I, too, have a dream, that one day I'll be judged not by the content of my
character, but by the colour of my skin, because otherwise I'm screwed

dir: Ava DuVernay

2014

Time for more homework, me guesses.

Selma is definitely homework. Selma is the kind of flick most people only get to see because it gets mentioned at Oscar time (for people like me, I guess). Had it not been nominated for anything, anything at all, no-one would have seen it, and no-one would really have cared. Nor missed it, nor felt its lack in any substantial way, regardless of what Oprah might tell them.

What’s it about? Is it about that most beloved of Simpsons characters, Selma Bouvier and her many husbands, or her perpetual disdain for customers down at the DMV? Is it about Selma Blair, that actress from the 90s who doesn’t seem to have done much else since reaching her pinnacle in Todd Solondz’s Storytelling?

I mean, she did her bit for black/white relations in that harrowing film, but where's her parade?

No. It’s about something far more boring/important. It’s about African-Americans fighting for their right to register to vote in the South in 1965. It’s about them fighting for, and in many cases, dying for, a right most of us take for granted.

Because it’s about a specific event, you wouldn’t really call it a biopic of the very Reverend Martin Luther King’s life, and yet you couldn’t argue that he wasn’t the main character in this flick, because otherwise the main character would be… Selma, Alabama itself.

Rating:

American Sniper

American Sniper

America? Fuck Yeah!
Coming again to save the motherfuckin' day, yeah!

dir: Clint Eastwood

2014

I know there’s a lot of controversy surrounding this flick. There are probably some ethical and moral arguments to be listened to and appreciated. Whenever American right-wing nutjobs start praising something to the high heavens, and attacking people who have issues with it as being commies and traitors, I reflexively think the thing they’re praising most likely has to be a piece of shit that pushes all the right buttons that so need pressing.

Well, the nutters are out in all their nutty glory about this flick, and it has made a ridiculous amount of money thus far. I still want to approach it from as objective a perspective as I can.

Thing is, I can’t. I can’t be objective about it. I love snipers too much. I know how shallow this is going to make me sound, but of all the slayers on the battlefield, American or not, it’s the sniper I’ve always thought had the hardest and ‘coolest’ job.

One of my favourite war movies ever is Enemy at the Gate. It’s still my favourite, because this flick doesn’t supplant it one bit.

I think American Sniper has its boosters seeing what they want to see in it (and ignoring the inconvenient aspects), and its detractors doing the same. I don’t feel any particular need to be either for or against it, so I can appreciate it or not solely as a Clint Eastwood film.

Rating:

Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6

I think the Japanese title was 'Delightful Robot God
and Smelly Hangers-On'!

dirs: Don Hall, Chris Williams

2014

It’s not that I didn’t like it. I did, I did, I swear. It’s just that sometimes the obviousness of the formula sticks out like dog’s balls, as the phrase goes, and I can’t ignore it. During what should have been a sweet and uplifting moment, when our Hero called Hiro takes flight, all I could think of was “wait, isn’t this moment straight out of How to Train Your Dragon? And what is that smell coming from the back of the cinema?”

And it was. And then I started thinking about while I realise the movie is called Big Hero 6, and that it’s based on a comic book, and that it’s a kids version of something like a superhero supergroup like Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy etc, there was absolutely no reason I could figure out why the hero and his loyal robot Baymax needed the other generic sidekicks by their side. They didn’t really add anything to the mix, other than occasional one-liners. They are all, I’m sorry to say, superfluous. In fact pretty much everything other than the robot is superfluous.

Rating:

Annie

Annie

Hmm, maybe this isn't the 'gritty' Dark Knight-like reboot that I
thought it was going to be

dir: Will Gluck

2014

It must be hard to take on a classic in order to remake it. You’d think it was daunting, wouldn’t you? If you loved the musical of Annie, and the movie from 1982, then it would have to be daunting.

Of course, if you don’t give a good goddamn about the movie, and in fact it looks like it’s not as universally adored as I assumed it was (not up there with Sound of Music and The Wizard of Oz, but more like with Starlight Express and The Wiz instead), then it’s just an opportunity.

Like the song says, don’t waste the opportunity.

I have a theory. I don’t think it’s true, necessarily, so you might wonder why I’d bother relating it. Well… I’m sure there’s a valid reason, but I just can’t find it right now, might have fallen behind the couch cushions or something.

Here goes: the only real reason this flick was made was because Jay Z wants to annihilate his past.

You may know who Jay Z is, you might not. To some people he’s the former drug dealer turned producer and eventual rap demigod. To others he’s that guy married to Beyoncé, the one-woman music industry.

Rating:

Into the Storm

Into the Storm

Tornadoes: God's way of telling you to move to the coast

dir: Steven Quale

2014

Does anyone really miss Twister? Is there a cult following for that tornado movie which had Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton chasing tornadoes, something which contravenes entirely common sense and basic human nature?

I would say no. No-one misses Helen Hunt. Twister was, however, bafflingly successful, and was one of the first times special effects became realistic enough to look more real than the nincompoop humans on screen.

Those tornados looked real, devastatingly real. And catastrophe on the big and small screens is dangerously compelling to us.

When Jan De Bont’s Twister succeeded, it created an entire genre of action movies derisively labelled as ‘weather porn’. When you think about the combination of the two words, it does make for a very complicated mental image. Basically, it just points to the idea that many of us ‘like’ (however that liking manifests itself) watching weather slap around a bunch of people and property for our entertainment.

Tornadoes are a great way of making it look like weather can take a personal and distinct form with which to kill people.

This isn’t the place to start moralising about it, about what it says about audiences. We’ve ALWAYS enjoyed watching disasters and catastrophes on screen. It dates back to when this crazy cinema thing started off. It’s just that collectively, as a species, we’re better at it now.

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Million Dollar Arm

Million Dollar Arm

Who's idea was it to have him swing his jacket over his
shoulder for the promo? That's like the worst idea in
human history, even worse than the idea behind
Million Dollar Arm

dir: Craig Gillespie

2014

I am second to no-one in my love of Jon Hamm. There’s no way I would have watched years and years of Mad Men if it wasn’t for him. Well, that’s probably not true, the series has a deep bench of great actors and characters. I can honestly say, though, that had Jon Hamm not been in this flick, there’s no way I would have ever bothered watching it.

Seriously, I could not care less than I already do about baseball. That would have been my first mistake, because though this flick has little to do with the actual game of baseball, it hits all the same beats of a sports flick.

It’s also based on a true story, and true stories are never boring, and they never go wrong, do they?

A movie made about a bunch of people, about something that really happened invariably is either going to be about how something they did or what happened to them went really really right or really really wrong.

Honestly, with all due or no due respect to any of the people involved in the actual story of what happened here, it is un-fucking-believable that this got made into a movie. Millions of dollars were spent bringing this story to the screen, and it’s the most inexplicably bizarrely misplaced story I’ve ever heard of, transformed into a ‘success’ story.

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Lucy

Lucy

Lucy doesn't end up in the sky with diamonds, but
maybe she should have

dir: Luc Besson

2014

Mr Luc Besson: I don’t know what drugs you have access to, doubtless being able to afford shit the rest of us could only dream of; stuff so far above Class A drugs that they’re not even manufactured from ingredients found in this solar system.

Thing is, we don’t need to know about it. Whatever experiences you had taking magic mushies, DMT or ayahuasca with South American shamans, or even more obscure drugs snorted from the navels of Russian hookers, they’re for you to bore your fellow drug takers with. Sober people aren’t interested. Just like when you wake up having had a particularly vivid dream, why bother trying to play it out for someone else? That shit’s never going to make sense to another person.

“And then the priest came in, and this is the best bit, he was holding a tennis racket, and he was whacking this lady’s pineapple with it, and then we were flying, and I was saying to my girlfriend, who’d turned into Cardinal Richelieu, “Argle bargle” and he/she said back to me “Foofaraw” before we grew massive flippers and swam away.”

Cut that shit out. Or, maybe, instead spend a massive amount of money (for a European movie) bringing your delusions of humanity’s potential to the big screen for all of us to delight in.

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Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy

I wouldn't trust them to guard my corned
beef sandwich, let along an entire Galaxy.

dir: James Gunn

2014

When I first saw the trailer for this Marvel movie, which was probably playing just before another Marvel movie was about to play on the screen, I cringed inwardly, and sighed melodramatically. I do that, sometimes.

To me, because I’d never heard of these characters or this comic book ever, it smacked of arrogance on Marvel’s part, in that they’re so big now and have made so much serious bank since starting up Marvel Studios, that they could literally put any shit together and expect people to see it because it says Marvel Marvel Marvel all over the place.

Marvel. It had megaflop written all over it. If I had money to bet on its failure, I would have bet everything.

I was sure this film would die a horrible death at the box office, and it would be a stinging rebuke to Marvel’s hubristic attempts to take over the entire world. Stan Lee would have to eat dinner out of a can, they would from then on only make Iron Man movies all the time, more and more ludicrous crossovers like Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four versus Loki Loki and more Loki. Disaster on an epic scale.

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Maleficent

Maleficent

Jeez, be careful around those cheekbones, you could lose a
finger if you're not careful.

2014

dir: John Stromberg

We need new, 3D movie reinterpretations of classic fairy tales the way that we need a gigantic meteor to crash into the planet, extinguishing all life as we know it: we don’t, not that much.

When they bring out these new tellings of ‘classic’ tales, basically it’s little more than an excuse to have big battle scenes that look like the rare bits of Lord of the Rings battle scenes that editors were able to cut and Peter Jackson was able to let go of without crying. Of course that never happens, because he’s never cut anything ever, because anything and everything he’s ever filmed has been great and needs to be seen by everyone. But I truly do sometimes find it hilarious to see battle scenes under a darkened sky, where some big thing, like a tree-like thing, or a rocky tree-like thing, slaps around a whole bunch of dudes in armour, and it looks like twenty other movies I’ve seen in the last bunch of years.

You never knew it, but fairy tales as diverse as Alice in Wonderland, Snow White, Noah, Jack and the Beanstalk, and now Sleeping bloody Beauty all had, way back when they were dreamed up by the opium users who thought of them, all of them were crying out for the time hundreds or thousands of years hence when computers could be used to really bring the stories to life by computer generating vast armies to die bloodlessly in pursuit of a glass slipper or a kiss from some aquatic desperado.

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Calvary

Calvary

Big Irish priest, you take upon you the sins of the world,
go have a drink instead

dir: John Michael McDonagh

2014

We all know how awful the Catholic Church’s legacy of abuse and corrupted silence is. At least, those of us who aren’t apologists for the Church realise that. And it’s also uncomfortably part of the present, because many of the Church’s victims are still alive, some of the abusers still live, and many of those whose job it was to threaten, cajole, or bribe people into silence still reign, and are in wonderfully lofty positions still in the Church’s hierarchy.

But going over that is a very different story from the story Calvary wants to tell. It’s impossible to tell the story of a Catholic priest in Ireland without that awful legacy looming over everything, but the point of Calvary is very different. Its central character is a good priest (Brendon Gleeson). He doesn’t apologise for or deny what went on before; he strives to minister to the people of his tiny village in County Sligo despite their seeming complete indifference to the religion they purport to be a part of.

He, doggedly, refuses no-one, no matter how outright contemptuous they are of him or his faith, or how awful their crimes.

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Noah

Noah

It's raining, it's pouring, the old man is planning on killing everyone

dir: Darren Aronofsky

2014

There is no more epic a fantasy than the Bible, really. And Noah, the latest flick by Darren Aronofsky sets out to show us just how absurd believing the literal version of the story is.

No, that's not fair. The religious types who took umbrage with this flick, who, let's face it, take umbrage with anything because it's their favourite hobby, and because they're deeply insecure, ignore the fact that the original story, as read, straight out of the Book of Genesis, is already pretty monstrous. And flat out bonkers. Nothing said, no blasphemous statement can really saying anything worse about the Hebrew / Abrahamic / Old Testament God than his own actions would indicate.

I mean come on. He was the original genocidal maniac. He tried to kill off our entire goddamn species, for crying out loud, not just the people he didn't like because they had the wrong coloured skin or because they talked funny, or their eyes weren't the right shape.

Every other mass slaughterer of humans has taken their lead, their inspiration, from up on high. From the classics. From the one who started it all.

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Only Lovers Left Alive

Only Lovers Left Alive

Only watchers left awake will be the ones predisposed to liking Tilda,
Jarmusch, Loki and / or old guitars

dir: Jim Jarmusch

2013

It’s a film about vampires, and that’s enough to send up red flags. There have been exactly 14,798 vampire movies made in the last 10 years alone. The world needs no more. No more, never again, never.

It’s a Jim Jarmusch film about vampires, though. That sends up a sequence of red flags in itself. The idiosyncratic director has never bothered making movies that sit well with mainstream audiences, and this is even more eclectic that what he usually manages.

This is where the stream of caveats begins: an audience member being able to enjoy a film like this is going to depend entirely on whether they can watch films about characters who don’t really do that much for two hours. It’s a strange little duck that gets excited about such a prospect.

Calling Jim Jarmusch’s film’s slow kinda misses the point. They’re frustrating until you understand that the tension generated in scenes that aren’t speeding towards the next point on a plot line is your doing, not the film’s, and misses the whole bloody point of him making films in the first place.

What destination, impatient person? Who promised you a speedy cab ride along a sequence of highs and lows, before some pat denouement and closure is achieved for everybody concerned? You bought a ticket to the tea cup ride and are angry that it’s not the rollercoaster?

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