Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Hateful Way We Write Filmmakers Off When We Shouldn't

The film year for me has now started with vim and verve and my mindset now turns to the weekly schedule of new releases to prep for Radio each month.

One of the first I saw this year was Quentin Tarantino's new film the Hateful Eight which I have to confess I was not all that keen about as I have rarely enjoyed QT's work in the past (Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill would be the exceptions) so it was with some level of hesitation that I went into the film.

When I came out of it I said to the girls at the foyer desk "It's a Tarantino film" and in my written review I gave it a 2.5 out of 5 score feeling that while there were many things that I liked about it (the R18+ tone, the super wide screen, the dialogue, the performances and the musical score) I did also feel that it ran a little too long and the blood and swearing and abuse also got a little too much after a while.

But as the days and weeks have rolled on the film has surprisingly grown a fair amount in my mind and the negatives I felt about the film when I first saw it have faded somewhat, hell its even gotten to the point where I want to see the film again in the cinema which is always a sign that happens when I love a film.

What it has also shown me is that no matter how much you desperately want to and sometimes there can be good reasons to do such a thing you can just never ever write a filmmaker off and indeed part of me had written off Tarantino mainly because his last couple of pictures either didn't interest me very much or I was not a huge fan of.

And yet when I try to think about why that is in an exact sense in terms of having a clear and definitive answer I can't really think of one maybe it's just one of those sort of movies that comes along every once in a while that you probably don't think a lot of going in or even as your more immediate reaction when coming out of that film but it just becomes one that grows in your mind over time.

But if I'm going to say this for Tarantino then I had better say it for Michael Bay for as much as I LOATHE with every single fiber of my being his work on the Transformers films I have to say part of me is keen to see his upcoming 13 Hours film about Benghazi in 2012 it has had good reviews in the US but it hasn't clicked at the Box Office despite Paramount probably hoping like hell it would be their own American Sniper esque hit but as with all these things we wait and we see.

Cause After all I never thought another film in 2016 could give X-Men Apocalypse a run for its money but that was indeed the whole point of doing this column you just never know what can come around the corner movie wise nor can you write off filmmakers you may not have liked in the past because well folks stuff like this happens.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

On the Air Season 3 Episodes 1 and 2: Remembering those Wonderful Bastards

Well folks here we are,

The first batch of Radio episodes for 2016 where in January I talked about the following:

- Star Wars the Force Awakens
- Joy
- The Good Dinosaur

As well as my selection of favorite Australian films for Australia Day.

In February I discussed the following:

- The Hateful Eight
- The Big Short
- The Revenant
- Goosebumps

You can listen to the shows now on Soundcloud here:

Film Review - Carol (2016)

Carol is directed by Todd Haynes and stars Cate Blanchett as Carol a woman living with an alcoholic husband (Kyle Chandler) who she is getting a divorce from but one day meets Therese (Rooney Mara) who works in a department store, the two become close but their closeness in 1950s America could cost both of them dearly.

Carol is very good, really very good and it's for these reasons:

- The first is the visuals by Ed Lachman (who also was the cinematographer on Desperately Seeking Susan in 1985, Light Sleeper in 1992, 1980's Union City and Haynes's 2002 film Far From Heaven) because this is a gorgeous film to look at with its period setting and pastel colours be they pinks or whites or blues or reds not once did I feel bored looking at this film purely on a visual standpoint and it makes seeing this film in a cinema environment well worth it.

- The second is the music score by Carter Burwell again it is such a pleasure just to listen to this film with its combination of piano score and 50s music songs there were times where I found myself kind of wandering away from the action on screen just to get caught up in what was playing on the soundtrack and this isn't a bad thing not in the slightest.

- And lastly the performances are all superb, Blanchett is just wonderful in this role as not only does she fit the period so well but her outside appearance of being a proper 50s lady very poised very elegant and very much a servant of her husband combined with her inside vulnerability and anger and wanting so much more than ladies of her time were allowed hooks you into her work every time she's on screen.

But she's not alone, Chandler proves once again what an underrated actor he is as Carol's husband and the fact is that he's not a bad man just one who doesn't quite know how to handle a very delicate situation and wife while Sarah Paulson is very good as Abby Carol's lifelong friend who serves as her stable rock but the star of this show is Mara as she is fantastic and at long last after so many misfires she fulfils the promise she showed in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo one can only hope she gets an Oscar nomination for her work.

But despite all of this I have to say that I would have a personal preference for Blue is the Warmest Colour from 2014 as that film to me had not only a darker edge to its proceedings but also its same sex love story worked much better for me as that film takes place in a contemporary setting where these sort of love stories work much better as they are much more accepted as a part of everyday life whereas having one taking place in a period setting didn't quite gel as well for me and that's not in any way shape or form a slight on this movie not at all but because it was pretty much something that ruined your life back then I felt that it didn't work as well here.

And so that was Carol a film that is very very good and worth seeing absolutely but I prefer Blue is the Warmest Colour despite that films faults, 3 and a half out of 5.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Film Review - Suffragette (2015)

Suffragette tells the tale of the Suffragette movement in 1912 Britain where Women protested for their right to vote (a right by the way that Australian Women got ten years earlier in 1902 a year after the formation of our Federation.) led by the mysterious Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep) who is inspiring violence against the establishment to achieve their goal of equality, a goal that begins to inspire Maud Watts (Carey Milligan.)

Suffragette could've been a great film about an inspiring cause that still resonates with us today in modern day feminism though with much more peaceful means than the ones Pankhurst calls for in this movie, unfortunately this movie tells its great tale very poorly for three key reasons:

- The first is that you never feel intellectually compelled to follow the movement which is for a lot of movements throughout our own history a key element in getting people on side, instead it's just scenes of women sitting around talking, running in dark streets at night (the film looks ugly at times with its many night scenes and shaky cam close up shots) or being beaten and abused by the men around them be it in their homes or workplaces.

As a result of this I just found myself being unengaged by the rally scenes and almost bored by the film itself and a cause like this should make you want to care about it, want to follow it (indeed there were numerous Suffragettes all over the world, where was their story in the film) want to feel inspired to care about it I mean this is how these movements work, they spell out what they stand for under a charismatic leader and their followers become inspired to carry out the will of that movement and its leaders.

And that could be this film or indeed En Sabah Nur (Apocalypse from the X-Men's birth name) himself the very first mutant who preys on the weaknesses of others to serve him as the Horsemen of Death, War, Pestilence, Famine he who is the instrument to purify the world, who says loudly that we are all his children but we're lost because we choose to follow blind leaders.

And that Everything We've Built will Fall and from the Ashes from their World We'll Build a Better One and who asks us to Look Upon the Future and Tremble for there is no Freedom from him but only Freedom through him but he is not Evil or Malevolent he Simply Is, I know I'm going on and on but this is an example of that sort of movement done right and here it just fails miserably to get you to care all that much.

After all Apocalypse was what inspired the Cult of Akkaba who worship him.

- This ties into the second problem I have with this film and that's the characters, frankly all of them are boring or wasted in their potential, Maud could've been out every girl our way into this movement who becomes inspired to fight for her right to be recognised in the law but instead she just sits around and cries a lot and plays out the stereotype of the single mum, there's also the stereotypes of the controlling husband, the pregnant lady, the chief warrior and the enigmatic leader and they aren't much interesting either.

- And lastly the film wastes its great cast, Mulligan is boring as Maud and just resorts to her cry face for most of the film, Helena Bonham Carter is good but even her character didn't do much for me, Ben Wishaw I found very hard to believe as Maud's hard hearted husband, Anne-Marie Duff was not that interesting as Violet and Brendan Gleeson did okay as the detective on the Suffragette's trail.

But the biggest waste of all was Streep because FINALLY she is given a great role to sink her teeth into and its all wasted as basically a glorified cameo, when I saw her scene I thought to myself "This is inspired casting" but instead it's just another waste of a great talent in a film that sadly is guilty of all throughout its casting.

I really wanted to love Suffragette I really did because all the elements were there for a really special film but instead it's just one that deeply deeply disappoints me and overall just feels mediocre, 1 out of 5.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Film Review - The Big Short (2016)

The Big Short is directed and co-written by Adam McKay and concerns 3 men (Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling and Steve Carrell) who discover that something is very wrong in the US Housing Market which is said to be very safe and reliable but just because something is reliable doesn't mean it can't become susceptible to manipulation.

The Big Short is good, very good and very well made, the film clips along at a very nice pace and has some great performances, Carrell plays a great "I'm as Mad as Hell" type character and you can really understand his anger by the end of the film, Bale is great also playing against his usual rough and tumble type, Gosling is well Gosling he's slick he's smooth and he equips himself well and Brad Pitt is also great as a seasoned banker and his coming into his own as a seasoned actor has been for me a real joy to watch.

The film also has some great cameo moments one of which had me laughing the entire time but the script overcooks its storytelling I feel, there are many times where scenes play out and your interested in them but then the story stops for a "And now here's the explainer" moment which after a while did bother me a little bit but as the film gets into the second half I thought to myself "A Great Storm Approaches" as you see the fiscal recklessness, managerial incompetence and poor regulatory framework create the GFC (our own former Treasurer Peter Costello was very critical of the US regulatory framework in regards to banking) and you will walk out of the film feeling how Carrell's character feels.

All in all the Big Short is well done if overcooked somewhat, 3 out of 5.

Film Review - The Hateful Eight (2016)

The Hateful Eight is the new film from Quentin Tarantino and stars Kurt Russell as the Hangman who is taking Daisy Domageue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to Red Rock for Hanging but they're caught in a blizzard and decide to house up in Minnie's Habidashery where they meet the inhabitants (Samuel L Jackson, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Walton Goggins and Bruce Dern) but one of them is not who they say they are.

I am very very mixed on this movie I really am as there is an awful lot to like about it, once again Quentin shows what a genuinely talented man he is in terms of creating his signature dialogue set pieces and getting great performances out of all of his actors, Robert Richardson's photography is gorgeous to look at (he is one of the most underrated DPs in the business I think) and Ennio Morricone's score is fantastic and it really makes you feel like you're watching a film which has not always been the case with QT in the past.

Plus the performances across the board are great with Russell and Jackson being the main highlights though Roth is clearly imitating Christoph Waltz (I wonder if QT wrote that character with Waltz in mind before he turned it down.)

However this movie simply becomes too much by the end and at 167 minutes long (187 minutes in its proper 70mm Roadshow release version) it did get to feel too long for its own good and the violence and the language become very overdone in the second half, there's only so many times you can see Leigh's character being abused or pools of blood or the N word or the B word and saying that is a shame as was really getting into it and the stage feeling of the film made me think that QT could easily transition to TV or Theatre if he decides to retire after 10 films and both of those mediums would be a great fit for him given his way for constructing dialogue set pieces.

All in all the Hateful Eight has a lot of good going for it but again it overstayed its welcome, 2 and a half out of 5.

Film Review - Goosebumps (2016)

Goosebumps is based off of the RL Stine books from the 90s and concerns a young boy named Zach (Dylan Minnette) and his mother moving to Madison Delaware, one night he meets his mysterious neighbour named Hannah (Odeya Rush) and her father (Jack Black) who holds a secret that could awaken this sleepy small town in very strange ways.

I had fun watching Goosebumps, it's a straight up and down kids film that moves along at a nice pace and Black is great fun here, the best I've seen him be in a long time, the film also has some really nice visual effects work as well as nods to the original novels which I read as a boy.

The film however is probably more kid friendly than I thought it would be as I had felt strongly before seeing it that it would aim itself more towards the people in their late 20s/early 30s but it's definitely aimed at 7-12 year olds primarily and this is fine but it definitely came as a surprise to me watching the film.

Goosebumps is fun but more for kids, 2 out of 5.