Morbius

Morbius the Living Vampire

This should have been called "Morbius - Are you having
a laugh yet?"

dir: Daniel Espinosa

2022

Another week, another Marvel related extrusion from the Play Do factory.

If you’re wondering how or why this relates to anything to do with Marvel, it’s of the “very stupid” section of their back catalogue, the one that produces those terrible Venom movies; of characters no-one really cares about getting their own films played by people who know better but do panto during the summer break for extra money.

This, however, doesn’t it feel like it wants to or needs to even be anything vaguely connected to Marvel: it’s a dumb and generic vampire movie about a guy who turns himself into a vampire and fights another guy who’s a vampire and then kills that guy and it’s mostly done.

The end. No more to see here. Let’s hope.

What’s almost funny is that this doctor (Jared Leto, ugh) finds these bats, and decides to take their DNA, and put it in himself, and then he becomes like a bat, um, man? There’s even a scene where he stands in a circular glass chamber and the bats fly all around him, and there’s this Hans Zimmer music that sounds awfully like... that other film where a guy has an affinity for bats, and even dresses like one?

This flick is terrible, but not in enjoyable ways, just in generic ways. It’s not particularly horrible to watch, it’s just not that entertaining. Jared Leto speaks with an accent not of this earth, and yet he’s not playing an alien. Watching him simulate what he thinks is human behaviour is almost touching sometimes. It’s like watching a dog play the piano. He gets the idea of human interaction without the specifics that would make it seem like realistic human behaviour.

Rating:

X

X

It's not as trashy as this poster makes it sound, I swear

dir: Ti West

2022

Finally, a decent remake of Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It’s about bloody time.

No, it’s not a literal remake, unlike the appallingly dunderheaded update / remake / sequel / reboot that came out a couple of months ago, but it’s closer in spirit, aesthetics and setting, being Texas in the late 1970s (despite, you know, actually being filmed in New Zealand, of all places.)

X is a surprisingly good film. I say surprisingly because I did not expect it to be such a strong, well-thought out film, horror film or otherwise. And despite being an out and out horror flick, for the first hour you wouldn’t be certain of that, and in the last half hour you’d have no doubt.

The funny thing is, this flick has a theme, or almost a moral. And it’s not the one that “classic” horror flicks from the 1980s had, which is that young people should be punished for wanting sex and drugs and rock & roll, although it’s in parallel to that, in a way.

It’s about how terrible thwarted desire can be, how poisonous to the soul. Thwarted desire leads to mass murder, don’t you know?

A group of youngish libertines in the 1970s decide to travel to the sticks in order to make a “high quality” porno movie. The mood of the era is a dark one, with a heavy, moralising tone cast over everything. The only televisions we ever see have footage of a fire and brimstone preacher damning all us pleasureseekers to hell, droning on and on about how damned we all are for our libidinous, sinful ways.

This crew of travelling pornographers, on the most part, have zero qualms about what they’re doing. There is no coercion, no sadism, none of the callous disregard that generally typifies the “industry”. It’s a group of relatively young people just doing their thing, hoping they can elevate the “art form”, and having a good time along the way.

Is that a fantasy? I guess. It’s like, remember the early bits of Boogie Nights where everyone is having a great time, everyone’s high and there are no consequences to anyone’s actions yet?

Rating:

We're All Going to the World's Fair

We're All Going to the World's Fair

I'm not going unless it's being held in a basement somewhere

dir: June Schoenbrun

2022

We’re not all really going to the World’s Fair. Only the select few.

The rest of us will be left behind, in our miserable isolation, desperately wanting to connect with someone whilst avoiding all meaningful human contact.

Describing this film will be somewhat difficult, at least for me. I am, as many people are happy to point out, quite old. Despite the fact that I try to have an understanding of contemporary stuff in the zeitgeist, there’s so much of it, and some of it is so ineffable, that it’s sometimes hard to grasp whatever the hell the latest thing the young ‘uns are obsessed with is.

I think this flick is about a subset of a subset of internet users who suck themselves into believing conspiracies that are patently untrue, But believing that stuff, no matter how outlandish, is the only way for them to wrest meaning from the chaos that is their existence.

There are pretty much only two characters / actors in this flick. We watch Casey (Anna Cobb) record videos of herself all throughout the movie. I’m no therapist, but I think it’s safe to say she’s an isolated, disconnected teenager, possibly grieving the death or departure of her mother. We never see her father, but we do see her bolt upstairs to her attic bedroom when he arrives home, or yelling at her from downstairs when she’s watching creepypasta horror videos at 3 in the morning at full volume.

I don’t think we see her go to school, or have a single scene with other humans in it. Her one interaction with another person is a skype call with some jerk who’s obsessed with her.

Before those warning bells start ringing, I don’t think this is a flick about the perils of predators on the internet, and what hazards kids face when their loneliness compels them to open up to strangers. It’s not a cautionary tale in the sense that “this could be your kid right now!!!” being sold into slavery or pursued by rapacious Republican politicians.

It’s more nuanced, in the sense that it’s about quite a depressed teen, who may be acting out, who may be disassociating, but who struggles for meaning, for a reason to go on.

And what does that look like in this present age? It’s a kid posting videos of themselves to an audience of nobodies in order to get a handful of likes or views. We’re not even talking about the people who go to insane lengths for subscribers and the like: they’re performing for fewer people than you’d see at an average bus stop.

So we wonder, how much of this is Casey losing the plot mentally, and how much of it is her choosing to buy into this elaborate (and yet absurdly simplistic) “game” called the World’s Fair, where people pretty much recite an incantation, smear blood on their screen, watch a strobing video, and then watch as parts of their bodies or brains start transforming in some way?

Rating:

Hellbender

Hellbender

Parenting isn't that bad. Not most of the time

dirs: John Adams, Zelda Adams, Toby Poser

2022

If hell, as Jean Paul Sartre once opined in between abusing amphetamines and literary groupies, is other people, then families are a unique form of hell. And to be trapped with your family during a pandemic, well, we keep discovering lower and lower circles of hell all the time…

But imagine if your family, all its members, were immensely talented actors and filmmakers. Well, out of these despicable last few years, you could have made something quite special if you’d really tried.

When I mention that this flick is a family affair, it makes it sound like an amateurish set of home videos. It is nothing of the sort. Before I get carried away – I’m not implying this is the most heartwarming and uplifting movie made since Schindler’s List – I am however trying to say that this is a quite accomplished and pretty well put together horror film made by people who know what they’re doing, and they do it very well.

Yes, on the other hand you could see this as a director’s audition to try to convince metal bands to let the Adams – Poser family make all their next album’s film clips – I can see them making clips for Mastodon or Opeth or Baroness quite easily.

A lot of this flick has that vibe, and not only because the two main characters, Izzy (Zelda Adams) and her mother (Toby Poser) play doom-heavy music with lots of make-up on in their spare time.

They have a lot of spare time. They are a mother and daughter living in rural isolation. They play music, they do foraging stuff, they seem to get along okay, they do arty stuff. It seems like the perfect life if you like that sort of thing. The mum seems to fear… something. Either she’s worried about Izzy straying too far from the property, or she’s worried about something encroaching upon their hillbilly paradise.

Of course I’m leaving out the very beginning of the flick, which shows an array of women trying to hang and burn a woman that looks a lot like the mum, in those pilgrim / witchburning times, and yet it seems like they didn’t get their wish if she’s swanning about in the present age.

Izzy is a teenager, though, and bored, which is a dangerous combination. It seems like she’s never spent time with anyone else other than her mother. It could be because she has some kind of allergy or dangerous immunity condition, but like in real life that’s just some bullshit parents make up to keep their kids obedient.

As is inevitable, Izzy finds some teenagers doing some dumb stuff, and is drawn to them, and knows enough to keep this from her sainted mother. Of course a teenager would want to hang out with other teenagers. No matter how awesome one’s parent / parents are, you seek out peers, to compare, contrast, drink and have sex with etc.

I hesitate to say that it’s natural, as in a natural curiousity and urge, because this film is not about the natural urges all people might possess. It is, after all, a horror film.

Rating:

Kimi

Kimi

Who looks at this wily, confident woman and thinks
"our corporation will win against her?" Idiots.

dir: Steven Soderbergh

2022

This time that most of us lived through (and many didn’t get to) hasn’t spawned a lot of great films yet. I’m not implying that this is the first great pandemic flick. I’m implying this is the only good pandemic flick.

A lot of flicks have come out, have been impacted by lockdowns and such, have even tried to address this dreadful time, but it’s all too soon, all too lame. The best they’ve managed is some two-handers where a couple of actors yell at each other in a confined space with minimal crew for an hour and a half, never mentioning The War.

Instead of a two-hander, this flick staring Zoë Kravitz, who seems to be in everything at the moment, and is mostly a solo gig. As a shut-in IT worker ‘happily’ working from home during the pandemic, much of the flick transpires in the main character’s apartment.

On her lonesome, except when she occasionally has sex with a guy from across the street. The main character’s name is not Kimi: her name is Angela. “Kimi” is the alternative Alexa – instead of working for Amazon, Angela works for Amygdala, which might as well be called Amazon. Anyone with half a brain automatically thinks they’re talking about Amazon anyway, why bother with the charade, ya timid fucks?

Instead of Bezos drinking people’s blood and fucking their wives, the CEO of Amygdala is the one assuring the public in interview that the in-home voice activated device definitely isn’t harvesting people’s data when people haven’t activated it directly.

Of course, Angela’s job seems to be sifting through conversations recorded by the system for data useful to the company when they have no idea they’re being recorded.

Rating:

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2022

TCM

This is so terrible it doesn't even deserve a nasty comment

dir: David Blue Garcia

2022

Terrible, just terrible.

Oh wait, I was talking about the current Federal election campaign, which is the worst I’ve seen since the 1990s. One other thing I haven’t seen since the 1990s – the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

Is the original film good – does it stand the test of time? I can’t really say. I remember it as a terrifying and very weird film, one that has trained me, Pavlov’s dog-style, to recoil in terror every time I hear the sound of a Polaroid camera taking and printing one of its photos.

This flick, this one I’m talking about here, is a direct sequel to the original film. I am not making this up. This is meant to be the original Leatherface, the original one who chopped up Sally Hardesty’s annoying brother and friends in the original movie. How do I know this? No, they don’t get the original actor who played Sally to take part (she, being Marilyn Burns died in 2014), but she’s played by a nice leathery old lady called Olwen Fouere instead.

The thing is, and I don’t want to sound ageist, but while Sally looks like she can definitely kick some ass and shoot people, she is clearly feeling every one of the years that have passed since Leatherface killed her friends and family, tried to kill her, and failed. She’s the original Final Girl. But all that happened in 1973.

The year now, if you recently checked and marveled at what year this is, since it feels like 10 passed in the space of 3, is 2022. My math skills aren’t great, but that was like 49 years ago. Sally is in her 70s. So, not knowing exactly what age Leatherface was way back then, he is at least in his 70s, perhaps 80s.

Perhaps 90s? Is he an immortally strong chain saw wielding lunatic who derives some kind of supernatural power from chopping up people with a chainsaw, one that allows him to remain strong and impervious to damage? It’s certainly possible, because it’s the only reason I can think of as to why an octogenarian is still so spry.

I know some 80 year olds, and though some are far more active and with it than some people I know in their 40s, they often have difficulty opening cans or getting out of cars or walking without falling over.

Rating:

King Richard

King Richard

I'll never know why they didn't go with
"King Richard - He's a bit of a Dick, isn't he?"

dir: Reinaldo Marcus Green

2021

You know, I don’t want to talk about the obvious thing, at least not yet.

I did watch this flick, this long-arsed flick well before those infamous Oscars. And I remember wondering out loud “why does Will Smith like playing these boorish, selfish, blindly stubborn jerk fathers?”

People, we might have an answer.

He previously played the lead (when he was previously yearning for an Oscar) in a biopic about a homeless guy with a kid who somehow goes from sleeping on the floor of a public New York bathroom (with kid in tow) to be a millionaire stock broker because he somehow managed to convince a guy that solving a Rubik’s cube meant he would be great at trading stocks That flick was called The Pursuit of Happyness. That also had remarkably tone-deaf scenes where a monster father is acting abusively towards his kid, but they try to ‘lighten’ the mood with a jaunty soundtrack.

This, well, this is another order of awfulness, and it too is based on a real person.

Then of course there’s the staggering idea that the real hero in Venus and Serena Williams’ rise to the top of the tennis world is really the story of how their monstrous father made it all happen.

Without him… what? The flick never really actually proves what seems like its reason for existing. Sure, there are scenes where Richard Williams, the king of the title, refuses to change his mind about something or farts loudly during a meeting to show how unimpressed he is with what’s being offered, but it never clearly actually proves what it wants to prove: that the only reason Venus or Serena became champions is because King Richard made it so.

Rating:

Nightmare Alley

Alley of the Nightmares

I can't say I love this poster, but it accurately reflects that
these people are in this movie. So, points for that.

dir: Guillermo Del Toro

2021

Ye gods, what a keen and dark flick.

Legendary Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro often makes movies about (older) movies, but rarely outright remakes older movies. This, though based on a book, is a remake of a film from the 1940s.

As well, as much as it might sound like blasphemy to say this, I don’t always like or even get Del Toro’s movies. I love what his crew do visually with the visual language of film, but sometimes, or quite often, I find it almost impossible to connect to the characters.

I didn’t have that problem with what I think was his last film, The Shape of Water, which I watched on a plane, back when that was a thing people did, which won a bunch of stuff. It’s had a bit of a backlash against it since then, but also the last time I mentioned it to someone in a conversation about movies, neither of us could remember the name of the film.

I am not going to have that problem here. This is a masterful, controlled, perfectly realised vision of a Depression-era story about an amoral chancer who thinks he’s too smart to ever pay the price for his deceptions, but he very much gets his comeuppance.

And how. It’s not the first time Bradley Cooper has played a too smart for his own good arsehole (as in Limitless), but this time it’s in the service of a story slightly more grounded in cold reality, or at least a reality closer to recognisable from the 1930s. It’s a hard-scrabble time, everyone’s poor, everyone is desperate for a meal and a few cents. Stan (Cooper), after having some kind of grim experience at some house on fire, stumbles into a circus, and tries to make himself useful in order to have a roof over his head.

It’s the standard travelling circus of that era that is deeply ingrained in our (Western, of a certain age) consciousness: tormented animals, people with deformities or physical differences for audiences to gawk at, and then something much worse.

We forget, because the term has such ubiquity and none of the stigma anymore, but a geek was a particular thing, back in the day. And if we watch the flick, and listen carefully, we’ll learn anew what a geek started off being, rather than a catch-all term for anyone that liked computers and comic books a little bit too much.

Rating:

The Batman

The Batman

I look forward to the sequel where The Batman fights
The Man-Bat. That's an actual character, more Bat than
Man. Poor Kirk Langstrom. When will it be his time to
shine?

dir: Matt Reeves

2022

Something’s in the way, indeed.

I was reading an article recently, which tried to argue, probably successfully, that each time a new Batman reboot / movie comes out, it reflects something about contemporary American society.

Okay, but does that mean the rest of us did something to deserve those ones where Ben Affleck is Batman, and shoots a bunch of people? Was that our fault?

I mention the article, because there’s something probably right but also daftly obvious about such an argument. Of course Batman flicks can be said to represent something at the time they come out, but you can say exactly the same thing about whenever a new Sharknado or Tyler Perry Madea flick or when a new Jackass flick comes out: they all represent something about their “time”, plus how much money they have to play with, and what lazy commentary they’re trying to muster for relevance.

Did Nolan’s / Christian Bale’s Batman flicks say anything beyond how much we miss Heath Ledger? Rich guy fights crime in corrupt city because of childhood trauma. Michael Keaton’s Batman? Rich guy fights crime in corrupt city because of childhood trauma? George Clooney’s Batman? Rich guy fights crime in corrupt city with a costume that has nipples and people lose their fucking minds?

Zach Snyder’s / Affleck ‘s Batman? Batman should be able to kill crims because that’s what awesome guys do in slow motion.

I would like to give Reeves / Pattinson the benefit of the doubt, but so far what they have is a rich, isolated weirdo who wants revenge for his parent’s murder, who wears heavy emo eye makeup not because he needs to, but because he maybe still has a poster of Brandon Lee as The Crow on the wall of his bedroom, and who most people, crims cops or otherwise think is just some weird guy.

The world he fights for is one city, being Gotham, which is somehow trapped in the 1930s in its art deco architecture, 1970s New York for its filth, grimy aesthetics and fashion, and the 1990s for its music. If you don’t believe me, the slowest, moodiest Nirvana song, being Something in the Way, plays multiple times throughout the film, just in case we were going to get excited about anything.

Ooo ooo.

Rating:

Drive My Car

Doraibu mai ka

I know, I know, it looks like a laugh a minute

(ドライブ・マイ・カー, Doraibu mai kā)

dir: Ryusuke Hamaguchi

2021

This film is a lot. There’s 3 hours of it. It’s mostly people talking. If you’re into that, well, this will be a treasure for you.

If not, the lack of explosions and action could be perplexing. Also, it probably helps if you’re a fan of Japanese dramas in general and the writing of Haruki Murakami specifically.

Taken from his short story collection Men Without Women, Drive My Car also uses elements from some of the other stories in the book, so it’s not a straight retelling of that story.

Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) is an actor and theatre director. A lot of people not including his wife think that he is the bee’s knees, or whatever the Japanese equivalent is thereof. His wife Oto (Reika Kirishima) is a tv screenwriter, and she has this habit of spinning stories either during or after sex. Though they seem loving, there is a cold sadness somehow sitting between them.

When Yusuke tries to catch a plane but is delayed, and arrives home unexpectedly, he finds that he’s not the only one that enjoys Oto’s bedbound storytelling talents.

He does not confront her, or let on at all. But soon tragedy strikes, and Oto passes away.

At exactly 40 minutes into the film, the opening credits roll. I thought it was, kind of, a joke, but the more I thought about it, it was just a long prelude explaining who these people were, what they had, all before the “story” proper begins.

Rating:

A Hero

Ghahreman

Would you give this man all your gold coins?

(قهرمان Ghahreman)

dir: Asghar Farhadi

2021

It’s another great film by Iranian director Asghar Farhadi. How does he keep making films so consistently great? I mean that literally, because every other great Iranian director ends up in prison eventually.

If nothing else I would have thought the Revolutionary Guards would have sifted through his films suspiciously for any hint of anti-establishment sentiment, and punished him for it. They always, invariably, find what they’re looking for.

Farhadi doesn’t make it easy for them. He himself says his work is never political, which, everyone else immediately thinks “that makes it even more political than before!”

To a western ignoramus such as myself, well of course I’m not going to get subtle references to critiquing the regime if and when it occurs, but the mere fact that an Iranian flick exists and its main topic is the complexity of life in modern Iran itself is a criticism of how fucking bonkers life is with a theocratic viciously authoritarian state in charge of things.

A Hero has a seemingly simple premise: a guy in debtor’s prison tries to find a way to pay off his debt to his former brother-in-law in order to be set free, and with each minute that passes finds new ways to complicate things and new levels of intricate complexity. Life in Shiraz (not the wine, but the city from which I guess the wine takes its name) is not easy.

Rahim (Amir Jadidi) seems like a happy go lucky type. As soon as he’s out of prison on leave for a couple of days, he calls on his brother-in-law, who seems to be working as an…archaeologist at the tomb of Xerxes? The brother-in-law is Rahim’s conduit to the man who is keeping Rahim in jail.

And that chap happens to be… Rahim’s ex-brother-in-law through marriage. That guy, Bahram (Mohsen Tanabandeh), you’d think would have to be some kind of angry jerk for keeping the young, charming Rahim in debtor’s prison for no good reason.

Except that’s not quite the case. While Bahram is angry, and inflexible, he does not trust Rahim’s protestations or honeyed promises about money raining from the sky. And he fears that Rahim will try to do something to stop his sister from remarrying (someone we never see).

I don’t claim to understand the money that’s at stake here, but I think I recall Bahram saying the amount owed, as in, the money he’d given Rahim to pay off a loan shark for a business venture that went sideways was 150 million toman, which works out to around $50,000 in Australian terms.

That’s a fair chunk of change. By some twist of fate, Rahim comes into possession of a handbag with 17 gold coins in it, and hopes that they will discharge most of his debt, and get him out of prison. The problem is, the coins are only worth about half of the debt owed, and Bahram has no interest in being generous.

Rating:

Little Fish

Little Fish

Little Fish, Big Fish, Red Fish, Forgetful Fish

dir: Chad Hartigan

2021

Just to be clear, this isn’t a review of the really great Australian flick from 2005 that starred Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving of the same name – this is a recent flick called Little Fish, and it couldn’t be more different from the earlier flick if it tried.

This Little Fish is more of a romantic drama about a young married couple, in a world where a condition or a virus takes people’s memories away. I know that sounds just like this world, like with traumatic brain injuries or early onset dementia or a bunch of other conditions that rob people daily of parts of themselves, but the difference here is that it’s happening to hundreds of millions of people of all ages at the same time.

People instantly forget how to do things they’ve known how to do their whole lives. People forget themselves, and the people closest to them, instant strangers. Some memories stick around longer, especially sense based ones, and there’s no rhyme or reason to it, and no way to protect yourself from it or to stop it.

This sounds like the prelude to yet another flick about societal collapse and the apocalypse, but it’s nothing like that. Its scale is small and intimate. We see the changes this affliction brings about, but mostly we’re seeing what happens to two people and those closest to them.

Emma (Olivia Cooke) and Jude (Jack O’Connell) are the main couple, and they are married, and they’re starting to see the effects of the so-called affliction on those around them. And when it starts happening to Jude, forgetting little things, tiny aspects of their shared history, Emma tries to keep him present by endlessly replaying their past, to see which details he still possesses and which are gone.

Can they be retained? Can they come back? Can you still love someone when you’ve forgotten all the moments that lead up to falling in love with them? Is love based on memory, or can you still feel the feeling even if the memories are gone?

Rating:

Mother/Android

Mother Android

No, your mother is an android, not mine! And she
recharges slowly!

dir: Mattson Tomlin

2022

Not a very auspicious start to my reviewing of films released in this latest, possibly dumbest of years?

After all, I voluntarily watched a flick that looked pretty dire, and the only reason was the release date in Netflix said ‘2022’, and I wanted something as recent as recent could be.

Otherwise I doubt I would have bothered with this.

It is the Apocalypse. AGAIN. This time it’s robots. We swing around, every now and then, and eventually the spinning wheel brings up ‘all technology eventually will rise up to kill us.”

So not zombies this week, not monsters, not plants, not vampires, not aliens: robots that look like people, so, androids, hence the baffling title.

The film starts with a woman lamenting that she left someone behind. Then it jumps back in time, where the same woman is looking at three pregnancy tests, all positive.

There was déjà vu for me, here. The character is played by Chloë Grace Moritz, who I previously saw in another actiony flick, a weird mishmash WWII monster on a plane flick Shadow In The Cloud from a couple of years back, who also is desperately trying to save a baby while fighting gravity, monsters and misogyny.

Same premise, different enemy. What, former child Grace Moritz actor, out of her teens, is constantly being cast as a mama bear now because she’s outlived her usefulness as a teen ingénue? Christ, Hollywood’s throwing them on the used-by heap earlier and earlier these days.

Her character, Georgia, looking at the pregnancy tests, doesn’t seem thrilled. Wait till she finds out the world’s about to end. She is not alone in looking at the tests. In the bathroom with her (ew) is her boyfriend Sam (Algee Smith). He makes all the requisite noises of support, like “I will totally support whatever your decision is, I’m here for you, I just want what’s best for you, I’ll look after you and the baby” and these words disgust Georgia. She didn’t even know if she likes Sam that much.

But then, as they’re leaving Georgia’s parents place, some weird jerk says “Happy Halloween”, and Sam says to him “It’s Christmas”, and the weird guy looks even weirder before saying “Sorry, sir.”

Rating:

Violet

Violet

This poster... does not give a good sense of what the
flick is about.

dir: Justine Bateman

2021

Violet feels, at least from my limited perspective, like one of the most insightful and realistic depictions of what it could be like trying to survive in life while coping with severe anxiety. I say this not because I have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression, and nor am I trying to co-opt the lived experiences of the many people I know living with them. Or those no longer living with them.

I don’t know, I don’t pretend to know, but I do have two things: a level of hypochondria that at least, when I’m watching something, convinces me I must have the thing a character is experiencing, which fades a little while after a film ends, and a capacity for feeling very overwhelmed and anxious when watching movies about people experiencing overwhelming anxiety.

While I can reel off a whole bunch of films that have made me feel very anxious while watching them, through editing choices, cinematography choices, sound editing or performance, I’m not so self-involved that I think that is the same, or even comparable to the experience of generalised anxiety or the other myriad variations on the disorder. Getting anxious during a roller coaster ride makes sense. The real issue is experiencing that level of anxiety when you’re NOT on the roller coaster ride, and people are wondering why the choice of dairy milk or almond milk for your latte has reduced you to sobbing in a café, and you can’t explain it because you don’t know yourself.

If there are aspects that I can relate to, well, they’re more universal. Paralyzing self-doubt, self-consciousness, lashing out at people trying to help – many of us do that shit even without anxiety, so, yeah, can relate. This, being a character study of a person with extreme anxiety, brings us into the mindset of the main character, Violet (Olivia Munn), with extensive use of voiceover, but also with some other stylistic tricks, like having words appear on the screen, in cursive writing, sometimes letting us see how Violet really feels or what she really wishes, when her words, and the voice of her inner critic, are saying the diametric opposite.

Rating:

Atlantis

Атлантида

The bleakest place in the world, but at least they
have each other

(Атлантида)

dir: Valentyn Vasyanovych

2019

Such a sad, strange, serious film... about something that hasn’t happened yet.

I mean, the conflict this alludes to definitely happened. Russian forces pretending to be Ukrainian separatists took over whole swathes of Crimea and what’s called the Donbas region, and around 13,000 people have been killed since 2014, which is a lot of people.

A lot of people. The conceit of this flick is that the ‘conflict’ was worse, and went for way longer, and the dead are at peace, but the living are the walking wounded.

The entire film consists of 28 sequences or shots. Most of the time the camera is static, sitting in one place, unmoving.

The film opens with just such a static shot: overhead, thermal imagery, of someone digging a grave. Someone else is dragged to the hole, beaten brutally and then buried. We see the whole thing from go to whoa. It’s not a pleasant way to start things.

We don’t know if it’s a Russian soldier or paramilitary, or Ukrainian, but it doesn’t matter, in the sense that whoever it’s happening to, it’s pretty horrible, whatever their ethnicity or identity.

Set in 2025, two veterans of the conflict, Sergey and Ivan (Adriy Rymaruk & Vasyl Antoniak) are not living their best lives. The two chaps set up metal targets in the snow and, for fun(?) shoot at the targets while screaming abuse at each other and making it difficult for each other to fulfil challenges set by the other. After many minutes of this, after taking things a bit far, Ivan shoots Sergey in the chest, laying him out.

They’re both wearing bulletproof vests, but it’s still not how friends should treat friends. Both of them are clearly not in a good place mentally, though we’re never told or shown as to why. It’s not some specific event – it’s just the accumulation of what happened, all the horrors of war, that don’t end just because there’s a ceasefire.

On top of that, these veterans are not well regarded by their fellow Ukrainians. They blame these soldiers either for the war itself, the fact that they fought for so long with nothing to show for it, or that it’s their fault they didn’t win.

The place where they work, a foundry, is so bleak it looked literally like something out of Nineteen Eighty Four, as in the film version from the 1980s. If shit wasn’t bad enough at the foundry, where the other workers hate them, they also get a heartwarming lecture from the foreman as to how they’ll be closing now thanks to their American owners, thanks for all your hard work you bloody peasants - no there won’t be severance cheques.

Rating:

Encanto

Encanto

Happy families are all alike; every magical family is
unhappy in its own magical way

dirs: Jared Bush, Byron Howard and Charise Castro Smith

2021

You may ask yourself: why would a man your age voluntarily subject yourself to a new Disney animated movie, when you no longer have a child of an age where the watching of such films is not only necessary, but mandatory?

Honestly, while I wave my hands at all *this* that’s happening now, the very thisness of it all, the crushing familiarity of where the world is at the moment, I just wanted to feel some delight, some joy, and while such a thing is not always guaranteed by Disney, it has a pretty good track record delivering with its mainline animated efforts.

I watched it, on a night I usually reserve for horror flicks or brutal action monstrosities, because I think my soul needed it, and I was rewarded. Encanto is up there with the “good” recent animated films Disney proper has put out, since it started having to compete with Pixar (before buying Pixar, of course). I don’t yet know if this has the longevity of something like Tangled, Moana or Frozen (I mean, Frozen was a global phenomenon, but no-one talks about Frozen II), but it’s definitely up there.

It does have some catchy tunes, but however great “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” is, it’s not going to invade the ears and minds of every reluctant parent the way that “Let It Go” is probably sung even on the outer planets of our solar system.

I also like the fact, love the fact that if you could somehow resurrect Walt Disney himself, and play him the entirety of the movie, he would probably die from shock that an animated movie from the studio he created would have so many people with different skin shades in it, and that they weren’t playing happy slaves on a plantation.

It would kill him all over again, and that’s probably a good thing. We don’t need old racist zombies returning from the grave, craving our brains, money or votes.

Rating:

Eternals

Marvel's Eternals

Here we stand, all on an angle, all pretending to look at
something. It's all ever so compelling.

dir: Chloé Zhao

2021

Strange days have found us…

Marvel is so confident in its marketing abilities that the masses will consume anything that says ‘Marvel’ on it, that they’re making movies out of the unloved, unwanted, unsuccessful parts of their back catalogue deliberately now. No-one’s been able to make the Eternals work as an ongoing series, and it’s hard to imagine that anyone was really clamoring for them to appear in cinematic form.

Ironically, this feels the least like a Marvel flick, despite being extruded ultimately into such a familiar final form.

We know nothing of these beings, of their characters beforehand, but we’ll be too familiar with them when two and a half hours have elapsed. When some of them ‘die’, we might feel nothing, not even mild surprise.

The ‘trick’ earlier Marvel flicks pulled was having a character, oh, let’s say one played by a very tall blonde Australian, which is a character known of outside of comic books but also within comic books, being Thor, a hammer wielding jerk with a murderous trickster for a brother, being Loki.

The conceit is that, sure, on this Earth we know of the Norse myth of the very strong, very dumb son of Odin who wields a hammer called Mjolnir and gets drunk a lot, but in the ‘reality’ of these movies, the myth springs from the reality, which is that there’s actually a guy called Thor, and he has a hammer, and lives in another realm called Asgard, and they’re so advanced they’re kinda like gods?

Well, if you can swallow that claptrap, let me introduce you to a bunch of other superbeings who also sounds familiarish because their names appear in a bunch of disparate Earth mythologies.

I can’t bring myself to even type their names, because it feels so generic. The important thing to say is that, there’s ten of them, and they came to Earth on a spaceship thousands of years ago, and they’ve protected humans from these monstrous creatures called Deviants. Whenever these creatures appeared, the Eternals destroyed them using their powers, and then they’d sit around for ages waiting for the next attack.

In between attacks, human civilisations generally flourished, populations grew, but the Eternals weren’t getting involved any of the other times when bad stuff happened, nor were they meant to protect humans from their own stupidity.

These Eternals mostly have analogs in old stories, because, we’re meant to think, they would occasionally get bored and tell people, or want to speak to someone’s manager, and bellow “do you know who I am and what I’ve done for your wretched species?”

Rating:

Come True

Come True

I assure you, the movie is better than the poster would indicate

dir: Anthony Scott Burns

2020

This was… one of the most unsettling films that I saw last year, and it wasn’t just because it’s Canadian. It’s not the most horrific flick that I saw last year, or the most horrific Canadian film I saw last year (that would be Violation), but it’s without a doubt the most unsettling.

Up until a certain point. Then it pulls a M. Night Shyamalan, and makes you regret ever having heard of the film in the first place.

It’s not even really a twist so much as an explanation, that comes out of nowhere, that no-one asked for, that improves nothing, that instead makes you feel like you’ve wasted your entire time watching something that has such an appalling ending.

I don’t want to focus on that. I want to focus on what I feel the flick gets right, for most of it length, because that way it feels like I’m being fairer to the film, to the people involved.

Saying that this film, Come True has a nightmarish quality is kind of like describing Kafka’s The Trial as being Kafkaesque. It’s redundant phrasing, because it’s literally about nightmares.

A lot of the flick is passages of a camera swooping through monochrome landscapes and sets with imagery that disturbing, but you can’t quite put your finger on why. It’s not gory or violent (except for maybe a few seconds just before the ending), and there’s no monsters eating people or demons trying to tear people’s bodies or souls apart.

It’s about a person, Sarah (Julia Sarah Stone), who’s homeless, and she doesn’t sleep very well. When she does, she always seems to be approaching a motionless figure, someone who she feels she is terrified of, but doesn’t know why.

We don’t know why Sarah avoids her mother, or doesn’t feel safe at home. She tries to scrounge food, take showers where she can, get to school on time, but she’s always falling asleep during class. When she sees one of those tear-off fliers for a place, presumably a university, offering to pay people in order to conduct sleep studies on them, she thinks that maybe this will help her out and she’ll get some money for her troubles.

Two birds, one stone. The people running the study are friendly enough, but they have a weird boss Dr Meyer (Christopher Hetherington), with these massive glasses on his face, which are even more disturbing than anything else that happens in the flick. Also, they don’t answer many questions when asked.

Rating:

The French Dispatch

The French Dispatch

All so many people, most with very little of worth to do

dir: Wes Anderson

2021

It’s impossible to know whether this flick is peak Wes Anderson, or whether his next flick will be even fussier. Each time one of his flicks come out, I think “it can’t get any fussier than this, can it?” and every time I’m wrong.

At this late stage of his career, to expect any different would be foolish.

The French Dispatch’s full title is The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun. How you feel immediately after hearing or reading that could impact on your reaction towards the film. If, upon hearing that, you rolled your eyes so hard you might have strained something, or you fought the instant urge to punch a kitten in the face, the preciousness of the ensuing endeavor may be a tad too much for thee.

After all, fans of Wes Anderson films are a special bunch. Like the collectors of Sylvanian Families anthropomorphised unholy animal hybrids or the people who are now drinking their own pee as a coronavirus cure, they’re not like other humanoids. Imagine the kind of person for whom Wes Anderson movies are the best movies they’ve ever seen.

You’re either picturing Wes Anderson himself, possibly wearing a cravat or an ascot, or legions of penny farthing riding, artisanal picklers, waxed moustache baristas or people who crave a gluten free lifestyle despite not being gluten-intolerant.

In other words such a creature doesn’t really exist. And yet those films keep being made, and someone must be seeing them.

Well, I saw this one now, and it’s not only a homage to all things fussy and Andersonian; it’s also a love letter to that other bastion of fussiness and great writing, being the New Yorker magazine. Why the pretense that it’s a French supplement to a Kansas newspaper? I have no idea, other than that Anderson wanted to set this flick in France in a town literally called Boredom-on-Apathy (Ennui-sur-Blasé) because that counts for humour in Wes Anderson World. Though the parallels with the New Yorker are fairly transparent and one-to-one, maybe it’s a reference to The Paris Review as well, which was founded by amongst others, George Plimpton, that silver haired razor wit and raconteur.

Yeah, nah, probably not. The editor, Arthur Howitzer Jr (Bill Murray), is probably even fussier than Wes Anderson himself. There are an array of other editors and cronies, all mostly played by the other hangers on and goons who usually populate Anderson’s films. Familiar faces. Familiar, goofy faces.

Mostly, the flick is held together with a tissue of connections, formatting, impeccable set design, but (mostly) is an anthology of stories, some more interesting than others.

Rating:

C'mon C'mon

Cmon Cmon

That wary look is the look of every parent when their kid does
something stupid

dir: Mike Mills

2021

I wish that I had seen this earlier, like, earlier last year. It would really have capped off the last, most dismal year hopefully that we’ll ever experience in our lifetimes.

Well, those of us who survived, I guess.

I was completely unprepared for how easily C’mon C’mon slipped through my critical defences and destroyed me, on a deep, deep level. There were multiple times where I was sobbing, and it’s not even a particularly “weepy” flick. It’s actually a quite joyous flick, in a lot of ways.

It feels like a film from a different era, and not just because it’s in black and white. It’s very contemporary in its efforts to get people, especially adults, to speak in helpful ways about their emotions, but it’s also not afraid to look at the fraught tensions between adults and children. A lot of the flick is Joaquin Phoenix interviewing kids. The kids aren’t acting. When they’re talking about the world or their parents or the future, it never felt like it was scripted.

My heart broke almost every time they spoke. They’re cautiously optimistic about the future regardless of their circumstances, but many of them can’t see past the dramas in their family lives. The kid who’s dad is in jail, and he’s there trying to get by, for his younger sister, because she’s all that matters…

I’m sorry, I’m already in a puddle again on the floor.

The film isn’t even mostly about that, but it does conjure up an atmosphere of optimism, somehow. Of hope. Not once is the pandemic mentioned. There’s not a single mask anywhere. I don’t know why that made me so happy. I didn’t even have to look it up to know that this was filmed just prior to, you know, all this craziness. That means this flick is like a fantasy, where the plague isn’t fucking things up for everyone across the world.

Rating:

Nitram

Nitram

The cracks, they are getting bigger

dir: Justin Kurzel

2021

A film that no-one wanted to see made, other than obviously the people that made it. Yet it won a lot of awards recently, so someone other than the people of Tasmania thought it had to be worth something.

“Too soon” isn’t even the cry, because no amount of time will be enough for the survivors, for those who lost loved ones back in 1996, or the rest of us who were just left stunned. And though I clearly remember that time and what happened, and how we sounded when we talked to each other about it, and though I have seen and done much in life that would stain the souls of most mortal men, even I came into this film wary, worried, anxious.

To say that someone is this nation’s worst killer, who harmed the most people in the shortest expanse of time, is obviously not a worthy title, but it’s one I deeply hope is never taken from this particular, awful man. I never want anything even close to this to ever happen again, here or anywhere else. There are other countries, let’s be fairly obvious, where gun carnage and mass killings are taken to be an unfortunate but necessary reality that should never be used to diminish a citizen’s right to own as many guns as they want, for whatever reason. But that’s not Here. That’s not Australia. We tell ourselves, well, it only happened because of an oversight – our overly permissive laws regarding guns before were only because we never imagined someone could legally possess weaponry like this and use it in such a fashion. I mean, This is Australia!

And yet, you ask yourself, what else would they be for? A weapon that can shoot thousands of bullets in the space of minutes only really has one purpose, and don’t they just sit there full of their dark potential until someone uses them the way God intended?

I had hoped there would not actually be any depiction of the fateful day itself, but Nitram goes into aspects of the day, like, how the massacre started, and it was all too much. But that was the end of the film, and up till then, I’d been sitting there as a tortured ball of stress, willing somehow at the screen with every fibre of my being that the outcome we were obviously leading up to could somehow be different, could somehow be anything else.

But it couldn’t. This is part of our appalling history, and just like how the colonial horrors of Port Arthur from more than a century previous, or any of the brutality across Tasmania can’t be undone by wishing it, nor could this horrible day be undone either.

Nitram opens with a shocking snippet of news footage of the person this film is about, as a child, in hospital after an accident. It’s shocking because it’s shocking to see him as a child, that he existed in documented form well before he became known by all.

He speaks flatly about having hurt himself with fireworks, and when asked by the interviewer as to whether he’s going to avoid fireworks in the future or be more careful in general, if anything he wants to play with fireworks even more now.

It never lets us forget what he’s going to do, but it does remind us that he was a child once. A child that grew up into a man who was pretty much still a child.

Rating:

The Lost Daughter

The Lost Daughter

Everyone has fun on a Shirley Valentine-like holiday

dir: Maggie Gyllenhaal

2021

Is there anything the Gyllenhaals can’t do? When they’re not wowing audiences with their intense acting, or stealing red scarves from Taylor Swift and keeping them long after the relationship has ended, now they’re also directing intense dramas and probably getting ridiculous amounts of awards and stuff.

Maggie Gyllenhaal elects to write and direct here, adapting a novel by Elena Ferrante, being The Lost Daughter and not, as I initially thought, an adaptation of the fourth Neapolitan novel The Story of the Lost Child. She does not elect to star in it, instead letting Olivia Colman take centre stage, to the film’s benefit. Gyllenhaal is a fine actor, but Colman has this way of getting mean peevishness across with very little effort. She did it so effortlessly and coldly on The Crown as Queen Betty for two years, so why wouldn’t she bring those Ever So British skills to bear here?

Very much like the Neapolitan novels, it’s about a woman who’s an intellectual and an academic, who had kids, and felt pretty unimpressed with the experience. Present are the elements to do with maternal ambivalence towards one’s own children and not wanting to be classified as a mother to the exclusion of one’s other professional, personal or artistic pursuits. Absent are the elements to do with growing up in poverty in a mafia run town, or the intense rivalry between two childhood friends.

It’s something most mums are reluctant to admit, I’m guessing, unless they feel like they’re in a safe space or have had a few too many chardonnays. The mother who isn’t completely enraptured by kids, or who doesn’t feel comfortable maintaining the illusion that having kids changes everything positively about what you want out of life is still a touchy subject that usually results in the woman daring to say it in essays or fiction as heartless, selfish monsters.

Leda Caruso (Olivia Colman) never lies to people about how she feels about motherhood. “Children are…a crushing responsibility” she says to a pregnant woman at one point. Very patiently, over the course of the film, Leda’s relationship with motherhood, and what she did to her children, is teased out, but mostly it’s used as a backdrop to partially explain why she’s standoffish and prefers to be isolated even as she holidays alone on the Greek island of Spetses.

The thing about holidays is, no matter where you go, other arseholes always turn up. And a huge bunch of loud Americans appear, among them a young woman (Dakota Johnson) with a toddler daughter. The way the mother seems to swing between wanting to be a good mother to her angelic, annoying child, and seeming to want some freedom from her as well, reminds Leda of what were clearly her struggles when her own daughters were younger.

We get to see Leda as a younger woman with a pair of kids being so deliberately annoying you know this is somewhat a heightened depiction of how oppressive kids can feel sometimes, especially when you know it’s down to you. Other people will say they’re happy to help, but there’s judgement there too.

It’s down to you, all of the time.

Rating:

Don't Look Up

Don't Look Up

It doesn't matter whether you look up or not if you tell yourself
it's either not happening or how can I make money from this?

dir: Adam McKay

2021

Don’t Look Up. It’s not satire; it’s a documentary.

It’s not a documentary of what’s happened in the past or what brought us as a species to this point: It’s a document of why humanity’s narcissism, greed, laziness, stupidity, and willingness to swallow lies, no matter how transparently false, will not only doom our own species, but many others.

People, told the truth about what changes climate change will bring upon the planet, either collectively shrug their shoulders and keep doing what they’re doing, or actively try to find ways to make things worse. Of course, this being an American film, it’s about the general stupidity and venality of American society, that would rather jerk off to the latest celebrity gossip than spend a second thinking about reality, but let’s not pretend any other countries, including our own with its coal-hugging prime ministers, are any less fucking dumb, venal and corrupt.

Worst of all, which could be one of the reasons why the reviews have been so savage, is the media landscape that aids and abets this mentality of outrage algorithms and clickbait making stories about Real Housewives shenanigans and pop singer breakups resonating far more deeply with people than anything to do with global catastrophic climate change. In the form of two tv hosts played by Tyler Perry and an almost terrifyingly unrecognisable Cate Blanchett, the media is depicted as so uninterested in any truth, and so focused on maintaining a pleasant and comfortable illusion that ALL IS WELL, JUST KEEP CONSUMING is the only message they have to give us, all of the time.

Yes, the film is about a comet hurtling towards the earth, initially with 6 months notice before it arrives, as a metaphor for climate change. But it’s really about this fucked up society that will either ignore the problem until it’s too late, try to profit from it, or deliberately sabotage mitigations because, hey, humans have a death wish. The people who discover the comet, two astronomers, (Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio) tell this fact to anyone who’ll listen. They can confirm that it’s happening, that it’s coming. No-one really believes them, but a few people are uneasy about it. Bit concerned.

They tell their sorry tale to advisers to the president (Meryl Streep, playing the worst fusion of Hillary Clinton and the former orange fucker that you’re ever likely to see), and then to the president herself, who doesn’t believe them, who disputes the very idea of statistics, statistical results or empirical evidence, and shushes them, being more concerned with upcoming elections and her ex-pornstar boyfriend that she wants to install on the Supreme Court, and they make the concerted decision to pretend it’s not happening at all.

Rating:

The Man Who Sold His Skin

The Man Who Sold His Skin

Every time I think of the title, I think of it sung by Kurt Cobain
to the tune of "The Man Who Sold the World". Try It!

(Ar-Rajul Allaḏī Bāʿa Zahrihu)

dir: Kaouther Ben Hania

2020

Where this starts… and where this goes…

This is a pretty sly and smart flick, undone only by what I feel is like something of a cop out ending.

I didn’t know these things before watching the movie, but I know them now – this is kind of based on something that happened, which itself was ‘inspired’ by a Roald Dahl short story called Skin.

Skin I remember, because I read Skin when I was a kid in Tales of the Unexpected, and it stuck in my head ever since, because of the economical brutality of it: a chap has an exquisite tattoo on his back, needs money, someone promises to take care of him like he’s a pampered poodle, but next thing you know the skin is on a gallery wall somehow.

This film begins with two curators being ordered around by a guy with way too much mascara on, getting the position of the frame right, only for the camera to close in on the painting itself, showing that it is human skin.

So, the film starts at the macabre ending, and we’re to wonder how this ever happened.

The purpose of Dahl’s story was to shock, to disturb, to give someone a wry chuckle. The purpose of this flick is very much something different, seeing as it’s by a Tunisian director, with Syrian leads, set during the Syrian Civil War and the rise of the Islamic State, and most of it transpires in Belgium.

Belgium? How many good flicks other than In Bruges are set in fucking Belgium?

Well, there’s this one.

Sami Ali (Yahya Mahayni) loves a woman, called Abeer (Dea Liane), but her family have promised her to some Syrian jerk who works as a diplomat in Belgium. Bashar Assad’s forces are randomly killing bunches of Syrians, you know, just to keep them in line, so her family think it’s safest for her if they marry her off and send her to Europe.

Rating:

We Need to Do Something

We Need to Do Something

How about let's not and say we did?

dir: Sean King O’Grady

2021

Can you imagine anything as terrifying as not being able to get away from your own family? Imagine being trapped inside with them, unable to get out, unable to go anywhere…

Well, what I mean is, imagine it happening to someone else, but not because of a dumb virus. And they’re Americans, so it’s okay if bad stuff happens to them. As the film opens, we watch a family voluntarily getting into a bathroom together. It’s a pretty big bathroom, at least. There’s a tornado coming, and they’re being casual about it, so I’m going to guess they’re in one of those states where tornadoes happen frequently and people are used to it, but never think to maybe move somewhere else where they don’t happen.

They will be there for a long time. If this screenplay suffers from any problems, it’s that it has a The Shining problem. I know it’s considered a Kubrick / horror classic, but most people rarely mention the fact that Jack Nicholson’s character is a prick and a nut right from the start. He really doesn’t have anywhere to go, other than from fairly nuts to totally nuts. There’s no arc, no development.

The dad (Pat Healy) here, too, is an abusive arsehole before things start going wrong, but at least the other family members can make eye contact with him at the start. Not so much later on.

There’s also a mom (Vinessa Shaw), a son (John James Cronin) and teenage daughter Melissa, or Mel (Sierra McCormick). They’re an average, very average, middle class family. They are fighting and sniping even before the storm happens.

What happens is, the house is damaged and it looks like a tree has trapped them in the bathroom. Forever, unless someone comes to help them out. Phones don’t work, or are conveniently lost.

“We need to do something” is said again and again, mostly by Mel. Thing is, though, the room is a perfect trap, and everything they try, down to brute force, doesn’t work.

The mum of course reassures the kids that everything will be all right, that help will come, that they won’t be harmed, they’ll be fine. The dad rants and raves, humiliated by his powerlessness, alternating between screaming obscenities at his wife, his kids or at the universe at random.

Contrasting parenting styles. Everything we see that happens to them, or doesn’t happen to them, occurs in this one room. It’s almost like they’re in a lockdown that never ends…

Rating:

The Matrix Resurrections

Resurrections

Only ageless people would think they're not too old for this shit

dir: Lana Wachowski

2021

Well. I have seen The Matrix Resurrections. I imagine I will be one of the lucky few.

I have the feeling not a lot of people are either going to watch this or like it, and the ones that do like it won’t be believed, and the ones that hate it will really, really hate it.

What I’m going to do now is not something I usually do in reviews, seeing as it’s going to be pretty annoying and not very illuminating without context. But I’m going to type out a sequence of dialogue verbatim as it was in the movie.

All the context I’m going to give you is this: Keanu Reeves, as Neo / Thomas Anderson, is alive, and works for the biggest gaming company in the world. He has a boss, and it’s the boss talking to Keanu / Neo:
“I’m sure you can understand why our beloved parent company Warner Brothers has decided to make a sequel to the trilogy.”
- “What?” (that’s Keanu saying “what”)
“They inform me they’re going to do it with or without us.”
- “I thought they couldn’t do that.”
“Oh, they can, and they will, and they made it clear they’ll kill our contract if we don’t cooperate.”

Okay. So. The people, who have made this film, including the director Lana Wachowski, didn’t want to make this film. If you include lines of dialogue in a film, and mention Warner Brothers specifically, being the company that Lana is saying she was pressured into making this film by, what possible incentive is there to make a decent flick?

I have no idea just how resentful Lana might be, but she’s certainly delivered on her contractual obligation, as have apparently Keanu and Carrie-Anne Moss.

How are their characters alive, you may ask, since we watched both of them die for the good of all humanity at the end of the dismal Revolutions? Well, the pesky machines, the AIs that dominate the Earth in the future and who enslaved humanity, literally within the context of the movie resurrect both of them, put them back in pods like they were in the beginning, and use Neo to keep enslaving humanity.

In the Matrix, as in, the virtual reality within the context of the films where most of humanity live and think is their actual real lives playing out, the machines resurrected Neo in order to have him keep enslaving humanity with entertainment.

That entertainment, within the Matrix, is the Matrix films. So the people enslaved by the Matrix are the ones who are entertained by the Matrix films / games.

So that would mean… we’re the ones enslaved by the machines? Or is it the Wachowskis, who feel they're enslaved by Warner Brothers?

Rating:

Petite Maman

Petite Maman

The petite mamans will inherit the earth, and all the candy that
comes with it

dir: Cèline Sciamma

2021

Little mum. That’s how I choose to translate the title. It’s probably ‘little mother’, but I ain’t fancy like that.

Petite Maman is such a tiny, small-scaled flick, with its tiny, 8 year old protagonist. She is Nelly (Joséphine Sanz), and she’s just lost her grandmother. Her mother Marion (Nina Meurisse) is stunned by grief. They clear out gran’s room at the old folk’s home, and then travel to clear out grandma’s home – the home Marion grew up in.

It’s an old kind of place (I guess, I mean I have no reference point for what places in France should look like, if they haven’t been renovated since the 90s?), and Marion’s childhood stuff is all still there, which she feels ambivalent about.

Nelly and Marion grieve in their own, confused ways, sleeping wherever feels most appropriate, pottering and such.

And then Marion leaves, because it’s all too much.

Nelly and her dad (Stéphane Varupenne) are meant to be clearing the place out over the next couple of days, but Nelly is more interested in finding the place in the woods nearby where her mother told her she once built a fort out of branches and such when she was a kid, about Nelly’s present age.

She finds the place, four trees in something of a square. There happens to be a young girl there, building the fort. I guess it’s something of a coincidence that the other girl is called Marion (Gabrielle Sanz), and she happens to look a lot like Nelly. They work together a while, and then run to Marion’s place when a downpour starts.

Even though they go in the opposite direction to where Nelly is staying, you kind of know what’s going to happen – this isn’t a mystery, or a thriller. It’s a gentle meditation on motherhood, grief, wanting somehow to say goodbye properly to someone for whom that option no longer exists, and the wondering many kids must do about what their parents were like when they themselves were kids.

They get to Marion’s house, and of course it’s identical to where Nelly is staying, only it’s back in time. Marion’s mother (Margo Abascal) already walks with the same cane that Nelly, in the present, asked if she could keep when her grandmother died. She is protective of Marion, as she is about to go to hospital for some kind of worrying surgery.

Rating:

Spider-Man: No Way Home

Spider-Man: No Way Home

Claw man is coming for you, off-brand Arachno Boy!

dir: Jon Watts

2021

Finally, another Spider-Man movie! This is impossible to review without spoiling, because every second of its running time, instead of having a story or plot, is just a never ending cascade of surprising spoilers.

I don’t know if you missed seeing Tobey Maguire either in general or as Spider-Man, but if you were missing him, here he is again.

Do you think about Andrew Garfield much? Do you like him as an actor? He is here, also playing Spider-Man.

Tom Holland plays Spider-Man too, or should I say three. He is the main Spider-Man here, the others are just hangers-on, depending on your perspective.

Benedict Cumberbatch reprises the character he plays in The Power of the Dog as Dr Phil Strange, an angry, repressed man who takes out his frustrations on the universe by doing magical spells. For reasons that don’t really make any sense because why would you need stuff to make sense if you’ve got magic, Dr Strange casts a spell to make the world forget that Peter Parker is Spider-Man.

Why would this matter? Well, because Peter and his friends are having trouble getting in to MIT, and the thought of having to go and work in the service industry or go to community college is too depressing for them. That’s plenty of justification for wrecking reality.

This makes villains from other universes that have a Spider-Man / Peter Parker, appear in this universe, trying to kill Peter Parker. But their Peter Parkers are played by different actors, so Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus are after Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker, and Jamie Foxx’s Electro and some Lizard guy are after Andrew Garfield (not for being Peter Parker, but because he’s so fucking annoying).

Rating:

Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Let There Be Carnage

Just look at this garbage. But, not for too long

dir: Andy Serkis

2021

In any year I’ll see a stack of films. There will be great ones, okay ones, dull ones, painful ones, but rarely will there be actively dumb ones.

Don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of dumb scenes in countless movies, but it takes a special talent / motivation to make a good “dumb” movie. Bad dumb movies are all too easy.

Of the thoroughly dumb ones I’ve seen this year, like the Australian made Mortal Kombat reboot or King Kong Versus Godzilla, this Venom flick is somehow dumber than the rest yet not any more enjoyable because of it.

Plot points and motivations, dialogue and virtually everything people say or do don’t matter in dumb flicks. Dumb flicks skate by all of that by being fun and / or funny.

This wasn’t fun, at least not for me. Tom Hardy as the somewhat lead character doesn’t look like he’s having fun either, but he’s based a career on that, so he’s not going to start looking comfortable now. Throughout this entire flick, and throughout what little I remember of the first one, Hardy’s character of Eddie Brock looks like little more than a guy who desperately needs to find a working bathroom. Alternatively, he has the air of a junkie starting to get the shakes, but they never stop; the shakes and the sweats are eternal.

Within him is an alien symbiote they call Venom, who consistently keeps wanting to eat other people’s heads. They have a very uneasy alliance, in that they fight constantly, though I think only Eddie hears Venom’s voice.

I could wax rhapsodic about how this is an updated version of the duality of the human soul / mind, of the Dr Jekyll / Mr Hyde concept, but even the thought I put into constructing this clumsy sentence is more than the level of thought that was put into the original script. I say ‘original’, because I can hear the deathly “punch-up” moments scattered throughout the lazy screenplay.

Rating:

The Power of the Dog

Power of the Dog

This is so not a Western, and yet... People will be tricked
into thinking it so

dir: Jane Campion

2021

What a film. What a strange, alluring film.

I guarantee you’ve seen no film like it this year, or pretty much any year.

Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a cruel piece of shit. His brother George (Jesse Plemons) is not a cruel piece of shit, but he does put up with a fair amount of abuse. They run a cattle ranch somewhere in Montana (it’s really the south east coast Otago region of New Zealand’s South Island, but, the magic of movies), and they are quite successful at it.

Phil rules the men that work for him with an iron fist, disdaining anything that might be delicate or gentle. He sees some flowers, constructed from paper, and it fills him with loathing and contempt, which he directs at the maker of said flowers, being Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee).

This isn’t, not that his cruelties would be any more justifiable if it were, frontier times or Civil War times or anything, it’s like 1925. The Roaring 20s. What even is this cowboy bullshit when there’s cars and trucks and stuff on the roads?

Phil don’t care. Everything that ever mattered he learned from Bronco Henry, a man we never get to meet, but who looms over Phil’s consciousness all of the time.

George, the other brother, is not like Phil. He doesn’t do the grunt work on the ranch with the grunts in their employ. He dresses fancy, waxes his moustache and schmoozes with, I dunno, governors and mayors and the like. When he sees a woman like the widow Rose Gordon (Kirsten Dunst), or her son Peter, he isn’t filled with an inexplicable rage. Instead he sees some gentle folk who he could have a life with, much to Phil’s disgust.

Every review you might read, including this one here, keep talking about what a cruel sonofabitch Phil is, but none of the reviews can really capture the extent of it, despite the fact that his cruelty is not like, I dunno, Hannibal Lecter or anything. He never physically threatens her, and rarely if ever speaks to her. But he finds his ways, he does, of making her feel worthless.

Rating:

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