Monthly Archives: January, 2015

Quick Comic Review: Marvel Star Wars #1

star wars comci

You could be forgiven for missing the fact that Marvel’s Star Wars #1 hit the shelves a couple of weeks ago. In a year that will be fit to bursting with Star Wars hype left right and centre, it was strangely muted on my Twitter and elsewhere that this book was being launched. I would be curious to see how the sales stacked up. The owner of my local comic book store told me that there were a mind-boggling 15 or so variant covers, so Marvel were obviously expecting a fair amount of rabid fan interest.

I grabbed a copy when I saw it down at the local. I didn’t take notes or anything whilst reading through, but here are some brief thoughts on what I liked and what I didn’t. Anyone else read this?

Things I liked:

  • The art on feature panels/pages (Vader’s first appearance, the final page) is really sharply done and suggests the grandest moments of the films.
  • They get the character design about right. They look close, but not too close to the actors who play them in the films
  • Atmosphere – this feels like a Star Wars story. There is a comforting familiarity to it that is not present in the worst Star Wars productions.

Things I didn’t:

  • The tone – whilst it feels like Star Wars, something is just slightly off about the tone. The lightness or comedic shading not quite right. Han’s interactions with C3PO for example, really don’t zing like they should.
  • Some of the panels outside of the feature ones I mentioned above range from the bland to the downright shoddy.
  • The comic is a victim of its construction. The fact it takes place immediately following episode IV means that whilst the beats will be unfamiliar, there is little tension in terms of the overall arc. We know where this story and where all of these characters end up. That’s not fatal, many prequels have the same issue. But future issues will need to overcome this to make it feel fresher and more necessary.

Verdict: This is an ok start. No doubt any big Star Wars fans have already snapped it up. But I would recommend it for anyone with the slightest interest in the films. If anything, following this comic and the other Star Wars titles that will pepper the year will help get you involved in the hype for Episode VII. Having said that, whilst I will return to the series, I will want to see a bit more from it if I am going to for out every month. Stubby of Reschs

Related beermovie.net articles for you to check out: Comics Review: 24 Undergound issues 1-5 and Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope.

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2015 Preview: Top 10 anticipated films

I quite like the exercise of looking ahead at the year of film we have to look forward to. Even though my lists pretty much always focus on big blockbusters, rather than the indie/sleeper films that will no doubt populate my best of 2015 list. For reference, none of the films on my 2014 most anticipated list made my top 10, though two of them did get honourable mentions. Hell two of the entries on last year’s list didn’t even get released in ’14 (one appears below in a slightly modified version, the other is Jupiter Ascending which I am still really excited for, but I won’t repeat here). This year I have tried to include some smaller films in this list, rather than the usual nine or ten big budget ones. Anyways here we go, ten I am looking forward to in no particular order.

Jurassic World

jworld poster

I have concerns about this film. But I want it to be good so bad, that I am sort of just wilfully ignoring them. I’m a massive fan of all of the original trilogy, I think the fundamental concept of the series is sound, am a huge Chris Pratt fan and I think Colin Trevorrow is an interesting choice as director. I will be happy if this sticks closely to the formula of the earlier films and features plenty of dino chases and people getting limbs torn off. But I just can’t stop fretting about the totally unnecessary hybrid dinos.

Knight of Cups

cups

On last year’s list I had ‘Whatever Terrence Malick releases this year’. Unfortunately that turned out to be nothing. But it looks like we will definitely see this, still rather shrouded in secrecy film, this year. With a cast that will potentially include Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Antonio Banderas, Freida Pinto, Isabel Lucas, Imogen Poots and Jason Clarke (hard to know exactly due to Malick’s infamous cutting approach) and what appears to be a more modern setting than his usual fare, this will hopefully be an interesting addition to one of the greatest filmographies in cinema history.

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

I’m pretty excited to see this. But to be honest, I am more interested to see the excitement and fandom build to a crescendo over the course of the year. This will be the biggest film event for a long while and it is difficult to imagine the film not smashing a record or three. I like the Star Wars films, though I was never swept up in them as a kid like so many. But I am definitely keen to see this continuation of the original films, with the first trailer suggesting the film will definitely play as a true sequel to that beloved trilogy.

Spectre

spectre poster

As a massive Bond nerd, I adore this poster.

I am a lifetime James Bond fan. I’ve spoken on a number of occasions about how this series of films were really my entry into the world of film. The end of Skyfall essentially hit re-set on the series for the umpteenth time and also suggested that the next arc will be a real throwback in terms of story and characters. Anyone who knows the Ian Fleming books will be super-excited by that title and if Cristoph Waltz really is playing Blofeld, this could capture the spirit of the absolute pinnacle of the series.

Two Pixar films

We can all agree that Pixar are in an almighty funk. It’s a testament to their early work though that a year without a release from them, like 2014, feels incomplete. Thanks to that fact though, we are scheduled to get two this year in Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur. I have reservations about both of them, but given they are both original properties, let’s hope they regain some of Pixar’s old magic. Especially The Good Dinosaur, so we can hopefully have two classic dinosaur films in one year. Everyone likes dinosaurs as much as I do right?

Wyrmwood

The trailer for this film broke a little while ago, and has me super excited for this Aussie zombie flick. It looks like a hell of a lot of fun, some of the actors involved are lesser known favourites from out here and most exciting of all, it seems to be trading in some broad Australian humour that is actually bloody funny. I really hope they pull this off, because if they do, it could be a much needed Aussie box office hit.

The Hunger Games: Mockinjay Part 2

Part 1 of this was exceptionally close to making my top 10 of 2014. I thought the direction that film took the series, after the first two pretty similar entries, was pretty bold, when more of the same would have done. I am doing my absolute best to avoid info on the final film. But I will be intrigued to see where they go from the dark, propaganda focused war film that was Part 1.

Z for Zachariah

Craig Zobel’s previous film Compliance, whilst not perfect, was one of the most deeply unsettling cinematic experiences of recent times. This film looks like it will be completely different territory. It’s based on a classic sci-fi novel and stars big names such as Margot Robbie, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Chris Pine. It’s looking like this will be more post-apocalyptic survival tale than realistic fast food store set thriller. Though a small cast, a hallmark of the earlier film, remains here, promising an desolated vibe that characterises the most haunting of post-apocalyptic films.

Macbeth

macbeth poster

When done well, Shakespeare on the big screen can be one of cinema’s great joys. The personnel involved here give a lot of hope that this will be the bard done right. We have the director of Snowtown Justin Kurzel, the best actress in the world Marion Cotillard along with Michael Fassbender, taking on one of the most famous of Shakespeare’s plays in what looks like a pretty traditional adaptation. Hopefully this gets a good cinema release after what I suspect will be a pretty extensive festival run.

Selfless

The mark of how blind a fan of Tarsem one is depends on their reaction to the sickly style over substance of Mirror Mirror. I really liked that film. It wasn’t quite on the level of The Fall or even The Cell but Tarsem is perhaps the most interesting visual director alive today. Anytime he makes a film, I want to be seeing it on the biggest screen possible. This one will explore themes of consciousness and ageing starring awesome people like Matthew Goode. There does not seem to be a whole lot out there about it, but I suspect it will be damn pretty. It has been bumped a couple of times, which could suggest a lot of post-production work to flesh out Tarsem’s visuals.

Related beermovie.net articles for you to check out: 2014 Preview: Top 10 Anticipated films and 2013 Preview: Top 10 Anticipated films.

Like what you read? Then please like Beermovie.net on facebook here and follow me on twitter @beer_movie

2014 in Review: The Top 10

The fact every year is a good year for cinema is a sentiment I have grown to appreciate more and more over the last few years. Whether or not you think a year was slightly better or worse than another, the bottom line is we are blessed to see a hell of a lot of great movies each and every year.

So here are my absolute favourites of 2014. I mentioned it when introducing my bottom 10 of the year, but it bears repeating here. To be eligible for this list, a film must have had its first cinema or straight to DVD/VOD release in Australia during 2014. Festival only films are not eligible if they have a wider 2015 release forthcoming. But if they don’t seem to be getting any broader kind of release, I will highlight them here.

Honourable mentions: Almost too many to mention really. It wasn’t the best year for blockbusters, but I loved Guardians of the Galaxy like everyone, loved Godzilla unlike plenty of people and for the second year running feel a bit shitty that a Hunger Games film missed out on my top 10, because Mockinjay Part 1 took a huge budget franchise a pretty bold place. As almost seems to be the norm, last year was a great one for docos. Film about film Room 237, Come  Worry With Us, the very important Aussie doco Utopia, Next Goal Wins, Freeload and another Aussie entry All This Mayhem were all excellent whilst music doco Muscle Shoals was the best of the lot. It was a weak year for horror and comedy though. Ti West’s The Sacrament sucked me in big time, whilst What we do in the Shadows brilliantly trod the line between both genres. Drama wise Her was great, as were Inside Llewyn Davis (my favourite Coen Bros film), Pride, Calvary and Jimmy’s Hall. On a more arthouse front, Marion Cotillard gave the year’s best performance in Two Days One Night, we all found out that Iranian vampire films were a thing we loved with A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and The Congress melted my mind. Almost there now. The Aussie industry again made exceptional work with far too few people here seeing it. The two aforementioned docos, three films below and Predestination and Charlie’s Country both being incredible mean there is plenty to catch up on.

10. Noah

noah poster

I can see why people took issue with this film. It does have fallen angel rock monster thingamajigs after all. But more importantly, this is a very rare ideas driven blockbuster that refused to pander to the studio or the supposed evangelical Christian target audience. I have no idea how this film got released as it did, much more an Aronofsky film than a biblical one. It’s hard not to love how the director took a source where we all thought we knew what we were going to get, and totally flipped it. What we are left with is something visually unique (just think of how average Ridley Scott’s Exodus film looked in comparison) and one of the most ideas rich blockbusters I’ve seen in a long time. It will challenge you to consider the environment, the way you interact with those around you, family structures, what you eat and what you think of “the creator”.

9. 52 Tuesdays

52 poster

The first of three Aussie films on this list and almost certainly the least known of them. The film focuses on two characters undergoing transitions – one a teenager going through a year of great change and awakening. The second her mother, undergoing a female to male transition. The film has a Boyhood esque structure as it was filmed on each Tuesday of a whole year. It further plays with structure by having the teenager Billie talking straight to the camera. It’s this teenage character who is the focus of the film really, her experience of her mother transitioning, whilst she awakens sexually is a lot for a character to bear. The performance of Tilda Cobham-Hervey in the role is pretty special, conveying the tumultuous year whilst also convincing as a playful teen. This is a unique film, both in terms of subject matter and construction, and announces a couple of really promising Australian talent on both sides of the camera.

8. Big Hero 6

hero 6 poster

Wow, Disney is on a hell of a roll lately and this is my favourite of the lot of them. Not only that, they are making quite a diverse range of films right at the moment. This one plays a fair bit older than is the norm and as a result adult viewers like myself will feel it all the more. Death is present, as it so often is. The concept of power and its (ab)use is a major theme and there is a truly creepyarse masked villain. The film manages to function as a piece of classic Disney filmmaking as well as a really good superhero team origin story. All the characters are wonderful and fully formed. This is an awesomely geeky adventure story and I struggle to recall a stronger adventure film made this decade.

7. The Rover

rover poster

This film seems almost forgotten already, which is a damn shame. I think it is a much more interesting film than David Michod’s beloved Australian gangster film Animal Kingdom. This is a sprawling, thought provoking film centred on the arresting outback visuals and Guy Pearce’s grimy performance. Set in a near future, it’s really a window into Australia’s blighted present, as greed and environmental exploitation rule above all else whilst the indigenous experience in this country is also touched upon. There is a stillness in the film that some may find too slow, but for me allows for reflection upon the themes on screen and absorption of what is being told.

6. Songs for Alexis

alexis poster j

When’s the last time you saw a great doco that was quite simply a beautifully drawn love story? So much of what I say to recommend this film, makes it sound like I am lessening its ambition. It’s just a love story. It’s just one guy’s tale. It’s just a simple film about family. But by not attempting to make the film anything grander than that, director Elvira Lind ensures that it stands out in a sea of docos that are trying to tell you theirs is the most important story to be told. Having said all that, seeing trans stories like this on screen is so new and as such there is an inherent importance to it. But it is so refreshing to see a film that is not totally obsessed or focused on the trans aspect of a person. Rather the film is a reflection of how that aspect interrelates with everything else that makes up Ryan Cassata – his family, passions, loves, growing up and working out what the hell to do in life. Given Ryan is also a talented muso the film is also elevated by the incorporation of his music, especially those songs he wrote for his girlfriend, into the film.

5. John Wick

wick poster

If you told me at the start of the year that a straight up Keanu Reeves action film would make my top 5, I would have laughed and thought you and idiot. But after a little more reflection, I would have come to realise how awesome such a film must be. This film came from nowhere and totally blew me away. It feels like there is nothing to distinguish it – tis a gun heavy, moderate revenge film. The choreography is spot on without being showy. The plot has the occasional flourish to set it apart. The cast, led by John Leguizamo and Keanu Reeves are above average. But basically, the sum here is greater than its parts, and I cannot wait to grab this on blu-ray, kick back with a beer and watch it over and over again.

4. The Raid 2

raid 2 poster

Can’t really believe my top 10 of the year has two pretty much straight action flicks. I liked the first film in this series, though I have to say I probably was less a fan than most. So many action films try and cram too much into the fight sequences. But never has freneticism in choreography been such as strength, as it is here. The action is blistering, sprawling, at times over the top, but no matter what is happening the camera-work ensures it always remains easy to watch and be wowed by. I’ve never seen action sequences as good as this.  Some have issues with the lengthy plot of the film. But it actually worked really well for me as a contemporary gangster film and I was enthralled by the various power plays and lobbying that was going on. I also felt that from a pacing perspective, these sequences brought me back down nicely in between fight scenes. We’ll see if I stand by this little bit of hyperbole in five years, but for me this really is one of the best action films of all time.

3. Interstellar

interstellar poster

Much, though obviously not all criticism of Nolan’s films comes from a nitpicky critical approach. For some people, small issues around plot or logic affect the enjoyment of his films as wholes. But for this film especially, the director’s grand vision totally won me over. The film has a number of my ‘favourites’ for the year. Hans Zimmer’s score is undoubtedly the one that stands out to me the most this past year. And some of the set pieces, spaceships careening through black holes or the wondrous dangers that await on new, uncharted planets quite literally took my breath away. This is definitely a flawed film, it’s unwieldy and Nolan struggles to keep it all under control. But by aiming so high, even where he misses, you have to applaud it. Visually awe-inspiring, surprisingly (for the genre) emotional and challenging on a bunch of levels, I kind of suspect this may end up being the enduring classic of 2014.

2. The Babadook 

babadook poster

Very little this year has made me as happy as seeing this film really blow up internationally. I toddled off to see this film by myself on my birthday, a couple of beers in hand. That may be my standout cinema going experience of the whole year. This is a terrifically frightening horror flick, with a thematic depth that really opens up over repeat viewings. It is both about a supernatural threat and the (perhaps much more real) threat of grief. It’s spearheaded by one of 2014’s best performances from Essie Davis, the realism and feeling of her frazzled mother somewhat reminiscent of Cotillard in Two Days, One Night. The influence of haunted house films was plain to see, though it never felt derivative, in much the same way as The Conjuring by James Wan. But even though it recalls a number of other films, this feels a whole lot different to pretty much everything I saw last year and the credit there is certainly writer-director Jennifer Kent’s. Her perspective is a fresh one and I cannot wait to see her make films for years and years to come.

1. The Broken Circle Breakdown

circle breakdown poster

I always worry that my lists will automatically favour films released toward the end of the year, because they will be fresher in my mind. Whilst that is probably true to some degree, I first saw this film when assessing it for a festival 18 months ago. I was pretty sure then it would be my number one of 2014, and none of the amazing films I have seen since have matched this film experience (an experience I have revisited on a number of occasions without lessening the film’s greatness). Like so many great films, this is a challenging one. Whilst tackling the theme of grief head on, the non-linear storyline means that the depths of sadness sits alongside the heights of life, alongside new love, fantastic gigs or awesome sex. The cracking bluegrass soundtrack begs for comparison to O Brother Where Art Thou but it’s unique to this film and much more enmeshed in the plot than in that film. Buy this soundtrack. I have it, and I listen to it often (I’m listening to it now). I don’t cry often when watching films, but I have cried each of the three times I’ve watched this. There is something frightening, challenging and exhilarating about a film that captures life, in all its brilliance and ugliness, as well as this film does.

Related beermovie.net articles for you to check out: 2013 in Review: The Top 10 and 2012 in Review.

Like what you read? Then please like Beermovie.net on facebook here and follow me on twitter @beer_movie

2014 in Review: The Bottom 10

When I first sat down to write this list, I was worried that I hadn’t seen enough terrible stuff to make a bottom 10 worth writing. But man was I wrong. It may have been a great cinema year, but wow was there some rubbish. I mean not even the latest Transformers film could crack my main list. Check out my 10 least favourite releases of the year below. A few of these may be a touch controversial. Share your thoughts in the comments if you agree or disagree. Also, usual disclaimer, these are my least favourite films from last year, not necessarily the ‘worst’.

Films that received cinema (not festival) or straight to DVD/VOD releases in 2014 in Australia are eligible. If I have done a full review of the film on the site, that is hyperlinked.

(dis)honourable mentions: It was another pretty bad year for comedy, though I found that it was the indie attempts at the genre such as Life After Beth, Kebab and Horoscope and St Vincent which struck me as the worst of the bunch, rather than the more mainstream efforts which just settled in as decidedly average. Also on the indie, more festival side of things, The Salvation was a terrible attempt at a western, whilst one of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last ever film roles went totally to waste in God’s Pocket. It was a particularly awful year for horror films I thought, with Nurse bungling its premise, V/H/S Viral being straight up terrible and Oculus somehow gaining a lot of love whilst boring me to tears. And of course, just like every year there were a fair number of blockbusters that sucked big time, just slightly less than those below. I’m looking at you 47 Ronin, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Need for Speed, Robocop and Pompeii.

 10. Monuments Men

mon men poster

The trailer for this film, which was one of those I seemingly couldn’t avoid for months, hinted that controlling the tone of this WWII caper could be an issue. I don’t think anyone anticipated it would be such an issue though. What is left is a middling mess of a caper film without any lightness and a war film with no real weight and no real villain. It is difficult to imagine that a film with this cast could be so bereft of anything worthwhile. The inept script ensures that this is an utter failure rather than a near miss.

9. The Amazing Spider-Man 2

spidey 2 poster

Seriously, Marvel can’t get their hands back on Spidey quick enough. Sony just continue to waste this fantastic property, and they fell into the Spider-Man 3 (2007) trap of having too many villains but not developing any of them fully. As a result characters such as Electro and Rhino were totally wasted. Not to mention the chemistry between Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield which deserves a much better film. In a sea dominated by the MCU, by the numbers plotting such as this film’s just doesn’t cut it anymore. We need something more than moderately competent, CGI drenched fighting.

8. I Frankenstein

False advertising

False advertising

Of all the films on this list, this one is the most comically inept. Reimagining iconic characters is hard, as the creators of the film found out with this disaster that takes itself far too seriously. It’s the kind of material that results in even the excellent performers involved (Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Yvonne Strahovski etc) being awful. They nail the ugly mid-90s CGI look perfectly and appear to have had a small child write the script though. There was so much potential for B-movie fun here, but there was absolutely zero fun to be had with this one.

7. The Water Diviner

diviner poster

This film did really good box office numbers for an Aussie film, which was a great note to finish the year on. Just a shame that so many people chose this, rather than some of the incredible Aussie features that came out in 2014. A good friend of mine (who is also a fantastic filmmaker) described this as ‘everything that is wrong with the Australian film industry’. I can’t really argue with that. It’s lowest common denominator stuff, by the numbers, sentimental rubbish. Frankly, it’s difficult to imagine a more searingly average film and I’m not joking, at one point my jaw dropped at the sheer awfulness of it all.

6. Transcendence

Transcendence poster

Oh we were all excited for this one. Great cast, Nolan’s long-time cinematographer Wally Pfister making his directorial debut and all that jazz. But this was just terrible. There is an ever so brief smattering of interesting ideas that is almost immediately overwhelmed by cliché. Blighted by silliness as well as a tepid script that makes great performers like Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall and Cillian Murphy totally uninspiring. Most surprising of all given the director, it’s a really ugly film. It all feels like a film that does not know what it wants to be.

5. Nymphomaniac Part 2

nympho part 2 poster

I was in two minds whether to include this, given this two part cut was not overseen by Von Trier. But in the end, it was a 2014 film and is more than deserving of its place. Part 1 of this epic had some interesting ideas and went some interesting philosophical places. This second part throws all that away in an almost absurd manner. Much of it descends into a platform for Von Trier to launch into some ill-advised personal rants on political correctness and free speech. Clearly a little Cannes derived points scoring. The patter of the dialogue all of a sudden becomes forced and annoying. The narrative just heads in strange, unbelievable directions. Worst of all is the ending, which just utterly betrays one of the characters that has been established and pretty much undermines the four-odd hours you have just sat through. Von Trier at his worst.

4. A Million Ways to Die in the West

west poster

There were bad 2014 comedies, and then there was this. I’ve never really watched Family Guy, but I was a fan of Ted (2012). So I was hoping for a silly, occasionally crude, western homage. This is garbage though. Seth MacFarlane has zero charisma or gravitas as a leading man. If he wants to keep making films, he definitely should not cast himself. Worst, and perhaps most surprisingly of all, this is a really unfunny film. It’s riddled with slapstick, but the creators don’t appear to have any eye for that tone of comedy, whilst the script is every bit as bad as others on this list.

3. Gone Girl

gg poster

I know people will probably think I am a bit of a wanker for including this. But good lord I did not like this film one little bit. I am relatively alone here, but I actually think the storytelling is pretty poor. The twists just landed quite flat for me and a lot of the narrative seems to rely on strange, jarring coincidences. Not to mention that the last act is at times laughably terrible. The tone I assume that was being aimed for was something a little trashy elevated due to all involved. But I actually found this to be a deeply silly film. The gender politics of the film are a little troubling as well. I’ve heard one of the main characters described as a ‘heroine for the MRA movement’ and I think there is some merit in that. Worst of all though, this is just a meandering, poorly told crime film that I would have expected came from M. Night Shyamalan rather than David Fincher.

2. Hercules

herc poster

As a lover of both B-movies and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, I was pretty excited for this one, even with the presence of Brett Ratner. After a sexist and atrocious CGI laden first couple of minutes, I pondered walking out. I really should have too, it would have saved me a whole lot of pain. It does not improve one iota and the cliché and overwhelming predictability is mind numbing. Not even some swords and sandals style battlin fun can be found here. Instead, there are a series of achingly long, training montages and battle sequences that feel totally without any narrative importance, tension or creativity.

1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

turtles poster

There are plenty of the usual blockbuster, Michael Bay type complaints here. Too much CGI, no originality, a listless script and it looks like it cost about $5 to make. But there are also other issues which make this a little more heinous an act that has been wrought upon us. For starters, it trashes the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a property, screwing with the mythology and simply not respecting what these characters are. But worst of all is that this is a misogyny-laden film that is aimed at an audience of young males. Megan Fox’s April O’Neil is a target of constant and atrocious objectification. Think of how toxic that is. It is a genuinely dangerous thing for films that treat women this way to be helping mould how young people perceive the world around them.

Related beermovie.net articles for you to check out: 2010 in Review and 2013 in Review: The Bottom 10.

Like what you read? Then please like Beermovie.net on facebook here and follow me on twitter @beer_movie

The Infinite Man

infinite poster

The Infinite Man (2014) is an Australian sci-fi comedy which did not make much of a dent at the local box office. It has however created a reasonable amount of buzz amongst those who managed to catch it, even popping up on some best of 2014 lists over the past couple of weeks.

Immediately the film makes no bones about the fact that it is a love story first and foremost. We meet Dean and Lana, celebrating an anniversary at an outback motel. Or tyring to anyway. Dean is a great character, a lovesick, very nerdy and slightly neurotic scientist. He is desperately trying to have the perfect weekend with the love of his life, meticulously setting out a weekend of traditional Dutch music, massage, tantric sex and a whole lot more. The focus from this man, whose work is bound up in the logic of the universe that surrounds him, is very much on the meticulous control of variables rather than the spontaneous moments that arise with the one you love. This attribute, perhaps the strongest of his character, leads to an inevitable breakdown in the success of the anniversary weekend and sends the film spiralling down a time travel road, as Dean repeatedly attempts to do-over the weekend more successfully.

infinite dimiOccasionally time travel films would be better without the time travel. And that’s kind of how I feel about this film. I was totally onboard with the quirky love story vibe of this film. But once the time travelling starts, it just lost me a bit. It’s by no means bad, but it just slows the film down a lot in a storytelling sense. The time travel elements allow the themes of the film – living in the moment, changing the past, love, and the ability to let go – to be examined in greater depth. Unfortunately for me though, this enhanced thematic depth came at the expense of narrative enjoyment.  Whilst initially the approach to the time travel captured my interest, with different versions of all the characters trying to avoid running into each other, it quickly became too slow, bogged down away from the emotional heart that had been so well established.

There are only three characters in the film and they are all good, especially the lead two. Alex Dimitriades is excellent as always as Terry, Lana’s ex-boyfriend who is basically a caricature to drive the plot along. Given the skill that Dimitriades possesses as a comedic actor though, his character does not feel tacked on or annoying as a narrative device. Dean, played by Josh McConville, is the most interesting of the characters. He is adeptly set up early on as a man whose (considerable) intelligence seeps into and generally overwhelms every aspect of his life. This is the constant battle for Dean throughout the entire film. Despite being relatively young, Lana (Hannah Marshall) seems weary with the world and especially the men who surround her. She is sick of Dean’s lack of spontaneity and the oppressiveness of trying to be with someone so rooted in the scientific. Despite the small cast, the film never seems empty, helped along by the fact the material is filmed with a light tough and all three of the actors are really good with what they have.

inifinite reflection

You can see that this was a low-budget film, but director Hugh Sullivan and his crew have done an excellent job of utilising what was available to them. The isolated location gives it a distinctively Australian flavour, even if perhaps initially it does not feel like it suits the story. But the story grows into the location and by the end of the film it feels a more natural fit. Once the characters are established it effectively functions as a blank slate for the material and actors to weave their magic on. The sparseness is in fact a benefit, as it focuses the viewer’s attention in on the strengths of the film that are not dictated by budget. Script wise, The Infinite Man is a strange beast. It is a truly funny script, but one without any real jokes in it. Rather the observational style, especially around the frustrations and challenges of relationships, will have you chuckling along. The editing is particularly sharp in the film, hinting at the time travel aspects in the first act and then bringing them to life later on.

Verdict: In the end, The Infinite Man is one of those films that I wanted to like more than I did. As a quirky rom-com with a scientist lead character the type of which is rare in this kind of film, there is definitely plenty to enjoy. It’s just that the time travel that dominates the narrative slows the narrative flow of the film more than I would have liked. Stubby of Reschs

Related beermovie.net articles for you to check out: Predestination and Quick Review: The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

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Worth Watching December 2014

December is traditionally one of my busier months in terms of watching as many recentish releases as possible, in anticipation of writing year end lists. A few early commitments meant it was a slow start, but in the end I saw a whole lot, a vast majority of which is worth checking out. Except for that one, lonely, crappy film not worth watching.

Worth Watching:

  • Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014), Ridley Scott – There is a throwback sensibility to the scale of this film, which really does feel like a 50s biblical epic. The film certainly has issues: it’s too long, the pacing is out of whack and a lot of the symbolism clunks. But seeing momentous moments such as the plagues and parting of the red sea realised so grandly makes up for all that and at times wows. There are some good performances too, in particular from Joel Edgerton. Though the inclusion of kiddie God, whilst interesting from a theological and thematic perspective, doesn’t work on a narrative level.
  • Nightcrawler (2014), Dan Gilroy – This is a very good film, though I think I like it less than most. Sets up a bleak cityscape and desperate economic times leanly at the start. But the first act is slow and never enraptures. Slowly though it reveals the character of Lou Bloom and the film builds as his character does. And the film is always more about his character rather than a focus on plot. Gyllenhaal is excellent as is Riz Ahmed as his offsider. I did find the treatment of the character played by Rene Russo pretty problematic, her actions at a number of points are hard to buy. A disappointingly drawn character in my view.

nightcrawler poster

  • They Came Together (2014), David Wain – Very self knowing and exceedingly silly. A combination that is endearing at first and more or less stays that way throughout. It is impossible not to love Amy Poehler and the material seems well suited to Paul Rudd. It’s not hugely original, but it is very funny and the casting right down to the minor roles is excellent. A really good comedy cast actually. Plus it has the best Michael Shannon cameo ever.
  • The Purge: Anarchy (2014), James DeMonaco – This is a much more satisfying film than the first, which excelled only in fumbling a great premise. The action takes place in a very interesting near-utopia (for 364 days a year anyway), where the class divides of today are even worse. The broader, societal view taken in this film makes up for the shortcomings of the narrative and action. Smart casting (e.g. Frank Grillo), thematic commentary and genuine tension at times make this one of the better horror flicks of last year.
  • Next Goal Wins (2014), Mike Brett & Steve Jamison – To follow what is literally the worst football side in the world is a wonderful idea for a doco. At times, particularly when focusing on the first trans player to play in a World Cup qualifier, the film rises above its premise. It is so interesting to see the natural acceptance of her in a Samoan context, especially when contrasted with how trans people are treated in the ‘west’. The team is a bunch of incredible characters and their faith and heart makes them a very welcome change from today’s world of heightened (and soulless) professionalism. By the end, you will be totally invested in the result and engaged by the ‘arc’ of the new coach at the helm.

next goal screenshot

  • Child of God (2013), James Franco – He cops a lot of flack, but I like Franco as a director. His films show him to be an intriguing adapter of classic texts, here Cormac McCarthy. Scott Haze brings a raw, animalistic and unsettling presence to the main character. This is a very challenging film. Both necrophilia and seeing a man take a dump feature. Franco is also a lean, sparse filmmaker which slows the experience. But it always feels like he is out to challenge rather than repulse. A very different horror film – exploring the way that total ostracisation from society can result in a decent into madness.
  • Paddington (2014), Paul King – Simple, classic storytelling done with a little stylistic flourish often goes a long way, as it does here. I love Sally Hawkins’ performance. Such a charm to her onscreen. The two kids are really good and the CGI bear is integrated seamlessly. Love that the villain is an evil taxidermist from the Natural History Museum. That’s dark. But can we put a ban on scenes where a man reluctantly dresses in drag and is then hit on by an unsuspecting male. So tired.
  • Pride (2013), Matthew Warchus – This is a fun and quite powerful film about intersectionality as well as the importance of the union movement. It’s also a piece of gay history that it is great to see reaching a wide audience. It weaves in a lot: the arc of a young man coming out; emergence of the AIDS virus and problems and fissures inherent in all protest & social justice movements. But it never for a second feels like you’re being lectured to.

pride poster

  • American Juggalo (2011), Sean Dunne – Wow, what a subculture! Like with all of them, or religions, they attract followers for very different reasons and people take very different things from them. A lot of beauty to what is taking place, so much of it is about acceptance and accepting people no matter what they’re into. Hell of a lot of abuse though. Definitely a seam of misogyny running through it, but perhaps no more than in society more general. You can watch the film on Vimeo here.
  • Orphan Black Season 1 (2013), John Fawcett & Graeme Manson – This is highly stylised both in terms of plot and style. I like how the main character in this is a total fish out of water, rather than the usual perfect super spy. There are some initial teething problems. It’s a little pedestrian early on and there are some logic issues. But that doesn’t last long and this is a pretty original piece of television. It is an awesomely bonkers premise that just keeps growing outwards. The different performances from Tatiana Maslany are bloody impressive.
  • The Drop (2014), Michael Roskam – Liked this one quite a lot. Has the inner city focus that distinguishes a lot of Lehane’s best work. Didn’t love the fact it felt it needed a twist in the end. Overall though I love the specific world. Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini, Noomi Rapace and a cuteass dog don’t hurt either. Also like the relatively small, confined story. Not everything needs to be grand and this film recognises that.

drop poster

  • Orphan Black Season 2 (2014), John Fawcett & Graeme Manson – Even better than season 1. This really ups everything – the conspiracy, the action and the complexity. Maslany inhabits her roles so completely, you actually forget they are all played by the same person. As well as continuing to expand the story out and out, this also examines in greater depth the questions of identity this clone tale is ripe for. The best aspect of this comes through the introduction of a trans character. It’s an admirably diverse show. The finale, whilst not totally landing, sets up a hell of an intriguing season 3.

Not Worth Watching:

  • Horrible Bosses 2 (2014), Sean Anders – I mean it’s not horrible. But it’s not particularly good either. There is the occasional laugh to be had and the cast is pretty solid – with the exception of the usually decent Sudekis who doesn’t bring a whole lot here. But the main issue is the (lack of) story and the seeming lack of effort overall. It’s really just comedy sequel 101 with no distinguishing factors.

If you only have time to watch one Pride

Avoid at all costs Horrible Bosses 2

Related beermovie.net articles for you to check out: Worth Watching December 2013 and Worth Watching December 2011.

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The Reef

I have written in brief about this film before on the site. This review was intended to be the first in a series of monthly posts on Australian horror films. That didn’t work out for a number of reasons, so I thought I would share this full review here. Enjoy.

reef poster

Us Australians, we know animals that can kill you. Last week, I found a deadly redback spider living above the desk I am writing at right now. We have crocodiles, box jellyfish, innumerable deadly species of snakes, spiders, even generally placid chaps such as octopus or even frickin shells come packing a deadly dose of venom in Australia. People have even been killed by native tourist magnets such as kangaroos and cassowaries. It’s not all bad though. This proliferation of murderous beasts means there is plenty of fodder for rad horror films.

If you ask an Australian which deadly local they fear the most, nine times out of ten, the answer will be sharks. All of the above mentioned animals are pretty easy to avoid really. However given the incredible quality of our beaches, we are lovers of swimming in the ocean. And once you are in the ocean, you are in a shark’s domain. Every year there are, I would guess, three to five instances of people getting taken whilst swimming or surfing on our beaches. So sharks scare us a lot. Which part of what makes The Reef  (2010) so freaking successful as a horeef bloodrror film.

The masterstroke of The Reef is that rather than CGI, the film relies on genuine shark footage and some of the finest editing you are ever likely to see in a horror film to have you swearing off a dip in the ocean forever.  There are a couple of special effects shots and they actually don’t work well at all. What does work well are the seamless shots of real sharks edited against the shots of the actors. Or occasionally the shots are composites of some description, where you will see an actor treading water, their arm of leg coming into the frame, as the giant shark approaches.

Like director Andrew Traucki’s first film Black Water, The Reef is (loosely) based on a true story. The film sees a boat capsize, leaving the five people on board to choose between swimming for a nearby island or taking their chances staying with the boat. In the end, four of them opt to swim for it. And then the shark shows up and delightful carnage ensues. There are some definite dramatic failings in this early section of the film. Some of the dialogue feels a little forced, as does a rekindled romance. Also, the fact they even end up in the predicament in the first place relies on some woefully inept sailing by supposed professionals. But once the shark shows up and that masterful editing and slick shooting starts flying about, you will forget all about the earlier dramatic flaws.

reef on boat

If you intend on watching the film, do your absolute best to do so in HD. The blu-ray copy I watched was almost popping off the screen it looked so sharp. The incredible blue of the vast ocean expanses are a stark contrast to the chilling goings on in the water. Along with the editing, another stylistic choice that ramps up the tension is the repeated use of underwater point of view shots. As the main character looks out, you can sense the audience straining to see in the blue murk for a glimpse of the massive shark that is stalking them.

Of course you cannot talk about a shark film without discussing Jaws (1975). The standard approach is to state how the film is no patch on Spielberg’s masterpiece or if you want to praise one element of the film in question, mention how it nears the brilliance of that aspect of Jaws. The Reef is nowhere near as good a film as Jaws, which is close to Spielberg’s finest film. But The Reef is scarier. This film will make you genuinely fearful about going in the ocean and it definitely had that effect on me the first time I watched it.  If you haven’t seen it, get on it.

Verdict: Pint of Kilkenny

Related beermovie.net articles for you to check out: Razorback and Predestination.

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Rope

rope poster

What a poster! Can see who the real attraction here is.

 

You have to give it to Alfred Hitchcock. He could have comfortably kept making the same type of movie over and over again if he chose to, and in the process made a lot of money and a lot of really fantastic films. But what set him apart and made him perhaps the greatest director of all time was his constant desire to push the envelope. He famously had to fight exceptionally hard to get Psycho (1960) made, blew the budget on a Salvador Dali dream sequence in Spellbound (1945) and got all high concept with Lifeboat (1944). Another film quite similar in premise to that is the baby-faced Jimmy Stewart starring Rope (1948).

The high concept Rope all takes place in a single small apartment. It sees two young men Brandon and Phillip covering up a murder (which they carried our using the titular weapon) whilst hosting a dinner party, with the body hidden away in the apartment as friends and family mingle. Amongst those friends is Rupert, played by a pretty young Jimmy Stewart. This mentor figure is the audience’s way into the film, reacting as we may to the events as they unfold. Rupert is brought to life by Stewart’s remarkable humorous sensibility, which shines through even in roles such as this which are not particularly comedic. The body literally sitting in the middle of the room whilst characters linger around it casts a pall on proceedings, from the perspective of the audience at least, though not the unsuspecting characters. The body also influences what is a very smart script, resulting in everything taking on different meaning if you have the knowledge of what is really going on. It is a wordy script too which is quite bold, the characters expounding a lot of ideas aloud, in a way which never ends up feeling like the unnecessary regurgitation of the plot and bringing the audience up to speed, rather adding complexity to the film’s thematic focus. The film is shot in 4:3 aspect ratio, which is an interesting stylistic choice. It works though, boxing in the action on screen and intensifying the claustrophobia that the audience and especially the under pressure characters onscreen are feeling.

rope smugs

Given the premise, it is in themes not plot that Rope has the most weight. Right from the start, you can tell that Hitchcock’s primary concern with the film is psychology. Brandon and Phillip go through a range of feelings in terms of the crime they have committed, from contentment, to guilt, to horror. This is all informed by the distinct hint of homoeroticism in their relationship and the way that one seems to be able to control and guide the other. Also feeding into the psychology of the participants is their class, which has imbued the perpetrators, Brandon in particular, with a sense of entitlement and smug satisfaction in what he has done.  The manner in which Brandon and Philip revel in their intellectual game is also connected to their class. It is as if they are bored by the leisure activities that society offers them, so instead of polo they resort to a sick game of cat and mouse, as if that is the right that their class affords them. The experiment of pulling of the perfect crime, killing for the sake of danger and sake of killing, also serves to stoke the ego of the perpetrators, reinforcing what they have always been told – they are special and they are better than those around them.

Verdict: Rope always feels a little too small a film to be counted amongst the very best of Hitchcock. But there is no shame in that and the psychological aspects of the film are unique, intense and expertly written and performed. Stubby of Reschs

Progress: 118/1001

Related beermovie.net articles for you to check out: Live Tweet Review: The Birds and Psycho.

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