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8 stars

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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.

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:

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