Zootopia

Zootopia

Wow, streets of New York are looking more like a zoo
every day

dir: Byron Howard and Rich Moore

2016

Though it seems unlikely, in the same week I get to review two movies with Zoo in the title, and one of them is utterly synapse-fryingly terrible, and the other one is truly great.

Guess which one is which: Zoolander 2 or Zootopia? Go on, take a minute.

Zootopia is wonderful, sweet and smart, even if it comes directly from Disney, and not one of its million acquisitions and appropriations. This is Pixar Quality! Well, maybe not as soul-renderingly touching as Inside Out, but it’s definitely up there.

Also, did you ever think you would get a Breaking Bad reference in a Disney animated flick in this, and not some other, universe?

It’s a strange world that gets conjured up here. Perhaps it’s as weird as one in which toys are alive when we’re not looking, or where the primary organisms in a world are all cars, but it’s novel all the same. In the world depicted here, all of what would be the ‘humans’ are all mammals, either herbivores or carnivores, but mammals all the same. It would be impossible to draw a one-to-one equivalent of a species standing in for a particular grouping or race of humans, but it’s undeniable (and unavoidable) that the film plays with notions of stereotyping and bigotry based on the perceived or actual qualities of classes of animals.

Rating:

Zoolander 2

Zoolander 2

These people are all very dangerously dumb. They shouldn't
be allowed to drive, or vote, or drink, or do anything, really.

dir: Ben Stiller

2016

Ye gods and little fishes – this movie is fucking terrible! This is like an anti-comedy, in essence almost every scene seems to have been put together to be as deliberately unfunny as the preceding scene, if not more so.

How do you manage to be so unfunny? How do you make it so it isn’t even accidentally funny some times, like, according to the law of averages?

Zoolander 2 doesn’t have far to drop in terms of quality as a sequel, because, in my unhumble opinion, Zoolander itself wasn’t that funny anyway. It wasn’t, I don’t think, as aggressively unfunny as this one, though. Or maybe it seems less unfunny by comparison.

I find it somewhat unfathomable. Ben Stiller has made some very funny movies. I won’t list them all, but even fairly recently, Tropic Thunder was pretty goddamn funny (for my money). I’ve even liked him in more (slightly) dramatic roles like The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. But nothing could prepare me for just how awful I found this.

I laughed once during a nearly two hour film. Well, hour and forty minutes, probably. Break that down further: 100 minutes of a movie, and I laughed for about 1-2 seconds, from one gag. As a ratio, it doesn’t look good in terms of return on investment of my precious time, does it?

Rating:

The Witch

The Witch

I never really enjoyed eating goat, have to be honest, and that's not
going to change any time soon, okay Satan?

dir: Robert Eggers

2016

I fell like I should be calling this ‘The VVitch’ instead, because that’s what it said on all the posters, which I couldn’t work out. Then the lightbulb I keep in a tinfoil hat on my head went bright, and I realised, a few minutes in, that the ‘V V’ is because this movie is set in the time of the Puritan Pilgrims of the 1600s, who were fleeing persecution / going somewhere new in order to dole out more persecution to each other.

It was the time before Ws, when V V stood for Double U. And when they used f in place of s. And everyone was cool with slavery, and Native Americans didn’t have souls so could be killed with impunity. Good times.

Confusing, frightening times. A time of great terror in the face of the unknown in the New World, a place where Puritans thought they were going to come to create a stoic, humourless, sexless Paradise on Earth, and instead they found the place just like everywhere else, just with better views and more squalor.

As this deeply unsettling film starts, a man with a thick Yorkshire accent, and his family, are being expelled from a Puritan plantation, because the lead chap’s religious views slightly contradict the party line of the other Puritans. Or it could be a conflict over those goofy hats with the buckles on them: he’s against them, they’re for them.

Rating:

The Jungle Book

Jungle Book

Look at these lazy good-for-nothing layabouts just laying about in the jungle

dir: Jon Favreau

2016

It may be a remake, but the current incarnation of the Jungle Book playing in cinemas is far more enjoyable and successful than I ever would have thought it deserved to be.

Jon Favreau isn’t really that respected as a director, and is more mocked for his existence as a shorter, fatter version of Vince Vaughn; an actor I have come to truly loathe. I don’t loathe Jon Favreau, in fact I’ve liked most of his flicks except for Chef, which was a terribly self-indulgent mess, I thought. Saying “I thought” at the end of that sentence seems awfully self-indulgent, but, you know what, I’m just trying to keep things conversational, okay?

I think he does okay as a director of comedic – actiony kind of flicks. I wouldn’t want him to direct adaptations of Wuthering Heights or Anna Karenina or nuthin’, but he seems to be, at least to me, a dab hand at light action fare. Most people probably remember him as a director of the first two Iron Man movies, and perhaps laugh a bit uncomfortably when the topic of Cowboys and Aliens is brought up.

Rating:

Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War

When will these people learn that you can't run away from your problems?

dirs: The Russo Brothers

2016

Well.

That was a bit of a step up. After the dirge of a fiasco that was DC’s latest entry into the “We can do what Marvel does, too?”, we get Marvel stepping up and delivering something that’s a bit more focussed, a lot more solid than the last Avengers flick. And, for once, it makes it feel like there are some consequences, some further changes in the Marvel universe as a result of the actions of many of the main players in this flick.

Yes, there are too many superhero flicks. Yes, there are too many Marvel flicks, to the tune of two a year, all of them basically set ups for the next to follow.

Whatever. Even within the factory that’s pumping these out, we now have a Captain America film that could just have easily been called Iron Man V or Avengers Again! or anything else, but that is certainly not to the flick’s detriment. If anything, the fact that you could have called it anything including Marvel Wanty Much More of Your Money and it would still work fine.

Rating:

Spotlight

Spotlight

People. Doing people-type things. Trying to destroy the Catholic Church for
being the foul Human Centipede of religions that it is

dir: Tom McCarthy

2015

It might seem a bit unnecessary to review Spotlight at this late stage because, surely, this far into 2016, what does it really matter anyway?

Oh. Wait. Yeah, now I remember. This flick, which was probably only watched by members of the Academy and every journalist that still carries a torch for the nobility and doggedness of their profession (in other words, all of them) somehow managed to somehow win Best Picture.

Surely that counts for something, right?

I find it incredibly hard to believe that enough members of the Academy saw this in order to vote in numbers for it to achieve a plurality of votes over the other contenders. If anything the flick tries so hard to be downbeat that it’s almost an anti-movie. Sure, the actors wear makeup and act all over the place, but it’s really trying to show just how unglamorous the profession was way back in the dim, distant days of the year 2000.

It’s funny that this is essentially a period piece. What is less funny is that this film set at the beginning of the new millennium is about the systematic sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests with the Catholic Church’s knowledge stretching back through the decades. And, let’s face it, probably centuries.

Rating:

The Revenant

The Revenant

Even looking like this, well, you know, half the ladies in the audience
(as if there were that many ladies in the audience) wouldn't leave him
for dead in a shallow grave, if you know what I mean

dir: Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu

2015

Again, I realise this flick has been out for oh so long, and various awards have been awarded and such, but I enjoyed the flick so much that I felt compelled to write about it.

Regardless of the absurd level of hype, and this was ridiculously overhyped, which is very strange considering what the flick was like and is actually about, this turned out to be a very enjoyable film for me that succeeds despite Leonardo DiCaprio, rather than because of him.

The movie around him, the amazing cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki, the relentlessness of the very landscape around them, they all combine to deliver an awe-inspiring vision of frontier times. The story didn’t really resonate with me all that much, but I guess the performances, especially of Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleason and Will Poulter, were solid.

But the real main character? Nature, baby. C’mon, sparkle for me. Work it, sub-zero tundra!

This is set in the early 1800s, and it’s meant to be North Dakota in the States. The thing is, though, I don’t even have to look it up on imdb.com or Wikipedia to know that they must have filmed this in Canada. There is not a shred, a scintilla, a skerrick of a doubt in my mind that it was Canada. Whenever they want to film something that looks this amazing, and which tries to convince the viewer that humans who travel to these regions voluntarily are idiots, they film in these bits of Alberta.

Rating:

Deadpool

Deadpool

I wonder what they're implying about Americans and their guns with this poster?

dir: Tim Miller

2016

This was plenty enjoyable. Far more enjoyable than I would have predicted.

It’s funny, it moves at a brisk pace, it satirises itself and mockingly bites the hand that feeds, and it succeeds where it has absolutely no right to.

Yes, I enjoyed this movie.

Ryan Reynolds had no real right, imaginary or otherwise, to ever expect to succeed at his endeavour to get his own superhero franchise going. It’s just not appropriate.

First of all, he’s Canadian. Haven’t the Canadians taken enough from the rest of us? He married Scarlett Johhanson. Scarlett Johhanson. Then got bored of her and moved on. He already played Deadpool in the truly awful Wolverine: Origins or whatever the fuck it was called.

And he also played Hal Jordan / Green Lantern in the astoundingly bad movie of the same name. Did I mention that it was utterly terrible, too? Like, unwatchably, eye-gougingly terrible? Like being forced to eat a shit sandwich, while being punched in the face by someone clutching a shit sandwich?

Maybe that’s going too far. Maybe it’s not far enough.

Do you blame the man for all those failures? Seems awfully coincidental otherwise. Did he just happen to be passing by when these terrible, horrible no good movies were being made? “It wasn’t me, the movie was like that when I got here”

Rating:

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman Versus Superman

Just kiss and get it over with, for crying out loud

dir: Zack Snyder

2016

It’s… it’s not good.

That’s not to say it’s completely terrible, but, it’s not a good movie.

I could go so far as to say that it’s a bad movie with some good bits in it.

I had hoped that the scathing reviews were just a bit of superhero movie burnout, or the punishment of high expectations, but it turns out that everything one could fear about a flick directed by Snyder with a script that David S. Goyer had a hand in easily came to pass.

The list of stuff the flick gets “wrong” about Batman and Superman is far longer than what it gets right. I put wrong in quotes because I’m not going to pretend like my opinion is definitive or expert or anything. No one likes listening to a Comic Book Guy spouting nonsense like they themselves invented Batman back in the late 1930s.

I do have an opinion, though, and it’s as valid as any other persons, with the possible exception of Professor Stephen Hawking or Sir David Attenborough, or Ginger Spice, because my opinion is pure shit compared to what those titans of thought could come up with.

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:

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:

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:

The Force Awakens

The Force Awakens

To be a badass, one must first look the part of the badass.
And have a cool lightsaber.

dir: J.J. Abrams

2015

It’s with a sense of relief more than anything else that audiences have found themselves celebrating what’s happened. The relief comes from knowing that George Lucas isn’t involved anymore. It also comes from wondering what would happen once Disney got its grubby mitts on the biggest franchise in the cinematic / merchandising universe.

As a nerd of longstanding membership of the global dateless wonders club, yes, I did really enjoy this flick. Sure it’s got a stack of issues, but at no stage are you enduring the flick (like at many, many parts of the prequel movies) rather than enjoying it.

The most hackneyed and cliché remark that reviewers are going to make is the same one I’m going to make now: Lucas was and still maybe is a visionary capable of creating not just a ‘world’, or world-building, but of creating something on the scale of a galaxy. Galaxy-building is not a common thing, or an easy thing. And yes, by ‘creating’, I mean conceiving of and representing something on a truly grand scale. At no stage did anyone confuse this with him being a great storyteller or a great director of actors.

There Lucas sits in his great man-cave (the Skywalker Ranch), muttering to himself after being shown this: “If only they’d added more lightsabers. Something with fifteen lightsabers at the same time. More 50s diners and more drag racing. Also, awkward conversations about sand and feelings…”

Rating:

Pan

Pan

This was terrible in ways Huge Ackman has rarely ever been, which
makes it something of an achievement

dir: Joe Wright

2015

Did I want to like this? Did I go into this determined not to like it, like I had an agenda?

I’m not sure. I think I was predisposed towards liking it, because I have a nostalgic love of the original story, or at least earlier versions of Peter Pan (that don’t include Spielberg’s Hook, which I still loathe with every fibre of my being to this day, like all good-hearted people). The thought of a ‘prequel’ didn’t particularly excite me, because it just seems lazy to me, or like a boring stealth way of trying to ‘reboot’ Pan without having to do too much work.

I’ve liked a lot of Joe Wright’s movies thus far, I think he’s a pretty impressive director. Atonement, Hannah, even his sweaty Pride and Prejudice would have been solid had there not been a Keira Knightley at the centre of things. And his Anna Karenina would have been a decent experiment (had there not been a Keira Knightley at the centre of things). Okay, well I loved at least two of his films outright, and tolerated the others. That’s better than most of the other directors you can think of.

Alas, now he’s made a flick I downright disliked. My problem is not the direction per se, since it’s probably as well directed as crap of this kind could be. I just feel like the script itself is a misbegotten and awful thing that should never have seen the light of day.

Rating:

The Martian

The Martian

One man against an entire planet, and the planet loses

dir: Ridley Scott

2015

You’d have to really, really like Matt Damon to want to spend about 2 ½ hours with him, just watching him do chores and talking to himself.

I mean, I like him well enough, but even for me it requires a level of commitment I’m not sure I possessed.

And then there’s the Ridley Scott factor. The last occasion where I spent time with him as he ‘transported’ me to another planet , I’d shelled out a small fortune to watch Prometheus in an absurdly gilded theatre in 3D (the ones where they serve you food and or drinks during the film if you so desire, and the seats are individual recliners). Let’s just say that my determination to watch Prometheus at all costs in a cinema did not lead to an outcome where I thought the money it cost was well spent.

No, in fact had I spent the same amount of money on a bunch of crack and handed it to the first person I saw outside the theatre, it would have led to the same profound feeling of foolishness and disappointment.

Rating:

Me, Earl and the Dying Girl

Me, Earl and the Dying Girl

This is the part of the caption where I say something
pithy that mocks the poster or the actors on the poster

dir: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

2015

Sometimes you just can’t catch a break.

If this never got the attention it required, if not that many people saw it who otherwise would have been the prime audience for it, then it’s a shame, but it all comes down to timing.

If the flick had been released before Fault in Our Stars, not a soul would have thought it was trying to cash in on some perceived teens-dying-of-cancer upsurge in audience interest. Released this year? Then it just looks like it’s jumping on a sickly bandwagon and riding some dubious coattails.

It’s a real shame, because the movies are nothing alike, and are both based on completely different books, and were being developed completely independently of each other.

I enjoyed Fault in Our Stars well enough, despite seeing how mawkishly sentimental it was, and how godawfully manipulative. It had good core performances (by Shaleen Woodley and the actors playing her parents at least), and a decent script especially as it related to the arsehole author Hazel worshipped and then loathed (played by Willem Dafoe). Nice soundtrack, too. It was always aimed at and intended for a non-discriminating mass audience, which it got in spades.

Although maybe I’m over-thinking it. Maybe putting “Dying Girl” in your film’s title isn’t going to have patrons kicking down the theatre’s doors to get in and see it

Rating:

Crimson Peak

Crimson Peak

I'm sure everything will be fine, she seems perfectly sane

dir: Guillermo del Toro

2015

Ghosts are just a metaphor…

It’s said so many times in the movie, that you know that the ghosts are actually meant to be ghosts, as well as metaphors for metaphors. When the characters within a ghost story question the parameters and plot points of ghost stories, I think we’re officially in the realms of the “meta” without ever having intended to take a trip there.

Crimson Peak is kinda sorta a ghost story. If you took the ghosts out completely, it would not affect or change the outcome, or even the path along the way, at all. The ghosts are queasy and nightmarish in some instances, but I would humbly suggest that they don’t really do much that couldn’t be easily done otherwise from a story point of view.

In fact, just to keep belabouring the point, I would argue that the screenplay already has the plot elements being discovered by the various relevant characters just fine, and then unnecessarily has those revelations underlined sloppily with these spectral redundancies.

Plus, it makes little sense. They’re maybe trying to help Edith with advice and warnings and such, but all they’re doing is scaring the shit out of her so that she makes dumb decisions that would seem to make it harder for her to achieve their goals.

Rating:

Tangerine

Tangerine

It's nice that they used a beautiful image to promote it, because
honestly this image is prettier than anything that happens in this
scuzzy "masterpiece"

dir: Sean Baker

2015

In all honestly, this movie is like a Tom Waits song from a slightly alternate reality come to vivid, stinking, meth-smoking life.

It’s also one of the most bizarre Christmas related or Xmas-adjacent flicks I’ve ever seen.

Tangerine may seem to be too gimmicky to be taken seriously as a movie, as a ‘serious’ movie, but I think they made something pretty interesting.

If the first gimmick “major release arthouse flick with transgender leads” doesn’t put you off, then the second might: Tangerine was filmed on an iPhone and edited using the kinds of software anyone with a Mac has on their computer but rarely uses. Of course a bunch of stuff has been done to it in post, especially the soundtrack, but also the visuals have been cleared up / colour adjusted.

Technical details aside, Tangerine got a lot of press as it toured the film festival circuit, even playing at Melbourne’s International Film Festival before disappearing upon release. It was always going to be a hard sell outside of a very narrow niche.

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:

The Walk

The Walk

Sometimes you just really need to have a good lie down

dir: Robert Zemeckis

2015

The Walk. The Walk? What a supremely banal title!

How can you spend millions upon millions on a movie and give it such a simplistic title, eh?

Well, maybe, just maybe, Robert Zemeckis is more concerned with bringing a bizarre moment in New York history to life more so than whether there’s any actual interest in the potential audience for such an extravaganza based on a snazzy name.

This isn’t to be confused with another recent flick called The Walk which was about a completely different subject, that being the Camino pilgrimage across Spain that the faithful and the stupid take part in every year. That one was directed by Emilio Estevez and starred his father Martin Sheen. Charlie Sheen was… otherwise occupied.

This is about an altogether different kind of walk, and is unavoidably based on a true story. The reason I say “has to be” is not just because it is, but because there is absolutely no other way such a story could have been told had it not been true. It’s too bizarre otherwise.

The reason is, other than being about this allegedly famous “walk” between the twin towers of the World Trade Centre, something which Americans are understandably a bit touchy about, the fact that those towers are no longer there means this flick is about more than just the walk itself.

Rating:

The Man from U.N.C.L.E

Man from UNCLE

Maybe if we all collectively just say "Uncle!" that will be
enough and they won't make any more of these delightful...
thingies

dir: Guy Ritchie

2015

yeah nah…

It was probably never going to work. I can’t imagine there’s much nostalgia for the show. It was too long ago, and there really isn’t that much to hang a franchise off. If you want to make something that looks like a dated Bond clone (or a homage-like retro Bond clone), you don’t really need to hitch your star to a barely remembered TV series.

Truth be told I actually do have fond memories of the show. I thought Robert Vaughn and especially David McCallum were totally cool when I watched repeats of the show on the telly way back when, and I thought they worked well together. I bought their friendship / partnership even before I really understood why an American and a Soviet spy should really have hated each other.

I always assumed they liked each other and worked well together because they were too cool for ideological / patriotic bullshit.

I still assume cool people like each other because they’re too cool for ideological bullshit. It’s the way to live, as far as I can tell.

It’s not really fair to call it a Bond clone, since Ian Fleming himself was involved with the show, and had basically conceived of it as being some kind of American Bond tv show (with Napoleon Solo as the main character). They threw in a cool blond Russian looking guy, and that was history being made.

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.

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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.

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A Most Violent Year

A Most Violent Year

A Most Dangerous Couple, whereby she does not strike me as being a lady
you want to disappoint

dir: JC Chandor

2014

This will come as a surprise to you, but A Most Violent Year is not a particularly violent movie. There are a few instances of violence, but overall it isn’t even as violent as something with Adam Sandler in it. Yeah, I mean like Pixels.

The year in question is 1981. New York was a much different place then than it is now. Back then, well, your truck could be hijacked, and no-one would even notice. The police were deathly afraid to walk the streets. Only Charles Bronson and Dirty Harry kept the peace by shooting ethnic types in the face.

Times Square was still a bastion of sleaze and depravity, and the metropolis was a living hellhole because Rudy Giuliani hadn’t come along to clean the place up yet. This is, at least, the narrative people have been peddling about New York for the last few decades. You could work in a few references to Ronald Reagan, Milli Vanilli and the Cold War, maybe, but other than that it’s meant to be the bad old days of a city in decline.

The real danger, the real violence, we come to understand, is that being waged against one man’s ego, against his morals, against his very soul.

Honest businessman Abel Morales (the always impressive Oscar Isaacs) is that man.

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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:

Trainwreck

Trainwreck

Oh, Amy, maybe you'll get so famous from this hit that you won't have to
yell "I'm Famous!" at the people at your gym in order to be let in

dir: Judd Apatow

2015

Amy Schumer plays a thinly veiled version of Amy Schumer in a romantic comedy about Amy’s difficulties with relationships and managing her copious consumption of booze and smoke.

Can she get away with this flagrant laziness?

It’d be like me playing a nervous Comic-Book Guy lookalike who drinks a lot and plays computer games late into the night.

It’s not a challenge. It wouldn’t even really register as fiction. It’d just be a sad documentary. I also can’t imagine there’s much of a market for it. Ryan Gosling is in talks about playing the lead as we speak, so, you know...

For Amy, though, there is a market for her not-so-unique brand of self-deprecating and caustic humour, resting, as it does, on pre-emptive admissions of what a drunken strumpet she is who doesn’t fit in comfortably with conventional standards of American / Hollywood 'beauty'.

The difference is (between my autobiographical existences and this movie), the massive difference is that Amy Schumer is incredibly funny and a great stand up performer who’s taken 11 or so years of hard work to get where she is. She’s hardly an overnight success, and she’s earned every dollar and every compliment, critical or otherwise.

Rating:

Pixels

Pixels

From the Jerks that brought you all of Adam Sandler's other movies,
and your last hernia, comes Pixels! A colonoscopy in cinematic form!
Just don't bring your kids

dir: Chris Columbus

2015

Bleurgh.

It’s not in my nature to put the boot in when someone’s already down. It’s not really in my nature to put the boot in at any time, really. Being a Buddhist and all, being fairly squeamish and not ever liking getting my boots dirty, I don’t like causing pain to anyone or anything. Least of all my own foot.

I wish the people who made this flick had the same impulse.

Pixels has already been lambasted as being one of the shittiest flicks to come out in 2015, and that very consensus is what made me think the flick deserved a second chance, or at least a first viewing on my part. If anything, I would argue that the almost universal condemnation wasn’t universal or condemnatory enough.

Pixels is fucking terrible. It masqueraded as a kid’s flick in order to trick parents into taking their kids along, at least in Australia when it was released during the school holidays, but, to sound like a Concerned Parent writing a letter to a Murdoch newspaper to express my outrage simultaneously in a tizz and in high dudgeon, this flick is not for kids.

What I mean is, while the makers certainly intended for it to be watched and enjoyed by the dumbest potential mass audience, it’s not in actuality a kid or family movie.

Rating:

Fantastic Four (2015)

Fantastic Four

This is... I can't... no, you're all in a movie that's bad and you should feel bad

dir: Josh Trank

2015

It’s… it’s not good.

Bad buzz killed any chance this flick had of being successful, but even more than that, being a bad movie, and a badly made movie at that, certainly doomed this flick more than just having Dr Doom in it.

I just don’t think Fantastic Four can ever work as a big budget franchise type-dealy, like the execs hope and dream. They’re never going to get Avengers-like numbers, because it’s too hard a sell.

It’s weird, because at a certain stage, like, forty years ago, the Fantastic Four were the Big Enchilada, the Cohuna Grande, the kings (and queen) of the Silver Age, the top of the heap when it came to comic book teams. Sales-wise and pop cultural recognition-wise, they were huge. They were bigger than gonorrhoea, milkshakes, Vietnam and drag racing.

But tell the kids o’ today that, and they’ll act like you’re talking about the time when you caught the ferry to French Island with an onion on your belt, which was the style at the time, and tickets were tuppence ha’penny each.

Whatever, though. I don’t care about the comic book, because, honestly, after the last few years of superhero saturation, does any comic book matter as a comic book any more? Or the origins of whatever group of heroes? Do you care? Can anyone?

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