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.

Film Review - The Revenant (2016)

The Revenant is the new film from Aleandro Inniratu who was the director of last year's Birdman and stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Glass a frontiersman who is left for dead after suffering severe injuries in a Bear attack by Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) who also kills Glass's son, Glass however is still alive and seeks Revenge on Fitzgerald.

The Revenant is not a good film I'm afraid and the longer it went on I just found myself getting more and more bored by it but before I delve into that more I want to talk about what I did like and once again Emmanuel Lubiezki's cinematography really delivers the goods, watching the film you really feel like you're out there in the mountains, the water, the snow and the land and Domnhall Gleeson is very good as the young Captain and its a welcome return to form after his very hammy performance as General Tarkin sorry Hux in Star Wars.

But this movie is quite frankly far far too long, at 156 minutes this movie very much wears out its welcome to the point where I just sat there getting more and more fed up with the film and just wanting it all to be over with by the time the climax rolled around and for the film to actually develop some forward momentum in its narrative which stops far too often to take in the scenery and both Leo and Hardy were weak in my mind, all I could see stamped all over Leo's performance is "LOOK I'M SUFFERING, GIVE ME MY OSCAR!!!" and frankly after the great work he's done in Wolf of Wall Street, Django Unchained and the Great Gatsby recently it will just feel like "Here have the Damn Thing" if he was to win for this performance.

As for Hardy its once again another Tom Hardy performance with a mumbly voice and it feels like its dialled up all the way to 15 now I really liked Hardy as Bane in the Dark Knight Rises but here and in Mad Max he just really grated on me and also I feel that with Birdman it was very much a film Inniratu wanted to make, it felt like he had something he wanted to say and he put it together really well and it was all in 2 hours, not 2 hours and 36 minutes that just wears you out frankly.

If the Revenant had been 120-130 minutes I probably would've been happy with it but at 156 minutes it wore out its welcome for me, 1 out of 5.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Film Review - Sicario (2015)

Sicario is directed by Denis Villenuve and stars Emily Blunt as Kate, an FBI agent who volunteers for a mysterious mission in Mexico led by Josh Brolin and his equally mysterious Mexican aide (Benicio Del Toro) but missions kept under darkness are never easy ones to solve.

Of all the films I saw in the cinema last year, this was the one I desperately wished I got to see in the cinema itself but unfortunately its late September release date saw it go face to face against the Martian as well as the School Holiday films like Oddball, Pan and Pixels and in a cinematic war there are always casualties and this sadly was one of them.

But the time came where at long last I got to see this movie after threading every inch of the preview for the last 4 months, could it possibly deliver the goods or just be a huge disappointment.

Fortunately this is a case of the former as this film is very good, very good indeed despite some slight misteps:

- First of all the visual look here created by veteran cinematographer Roger Deakins is great with those stark sun scorched Mexican streets and mountains to the dark tunnels underneath the surface to the strong blues of US Offices and Mexican night skies, this is a great film just to look at and you never feel bored while doing so.

- Secondly the music score by Johann Johannsen also adds a lot of mood and tension to the proceedings and there are times where you do feel your heart skip a beat as the film heads towards one of its many action setpieces, again great work here.

- And lastly is the direction and performances on display here, Villenuve's use of wide angles and long cuts works a real treat here as it allows you to take in what you are seeing more as opposed to the more traditional way (well it's a modern tradition) of having a lot of quick cuts that just want to move you along to the next scene or setpiece (the new Star Wars is a little guilty of this.)

And the 3 central performances are all very good, Brolin continues to show his fine form as the shady Government official at the heart of all this (his greatest challenge however is to make Thanos a compelling villain in the MCU and I have doubts he can pull that off), Del Toro is terrific here as well but for me the best performance in the film is Blunt.

I have been a fan of this woman ever since first seeing her in the Devil Wears Prada and she has not let me down since and here she provides to perfect anchor for the audience to be able this very shady script even if the focus goes away from her slightly towards the end, hopefully she will be able to find that cut through role she deserves as she has been consistently great for a long time now and her work here is also very reminiscent of Jodie Foster's as Clarice Starling in the Silence of the Lambs.

Where the film does falter a little bit however is in Taylor Sheridan's screenplay as numerous times I found myself predicting what was going to happen and it pretty much did but apart from that little bit of silliness I was won over by the film when it was over which shows that you write off a film easily before it's over at your own risk.

And so that was Sicario, if I had seen it last year it would've missed out on my top films ranking but it's not that far behind and I very highly recommend it, 4 out of 5.