2018 | DIR: MATTHEW VICTOR PASTOR | STARRING: MATTHEW VICTOR PASTOR, LAMAROC, KRISTEN CONDON, GLENN MAYNARD, STUART SIMPSON | REVIEW BY GLENN COCHRANE.
This is the twisted and surreal final instalment in director Matthew Victor Pastor's atypical Aus-Filo trilogy; MAGANDA: PINOY BOY VS MILK MAN. The first instalment was the short film I Am Jupiter, I Am The Biggest Planet, which was followed by the feature-length second film Melodrama/Random/Melbourne! And while those titles make up the trilogy, his first feature film Made In Australia – as referenced in Maganda – serves as an important prologue to the overall sprawl. Of course being a thematic trilogy, seeing one film without seeing another will not impact the individual stories, but for those of us fortunate enough to have bore witness to the whole mangled chronicle we certainly have more layers to contend with.
To an unprepared or uncultured mind MVP's unique approach to storytelling may seem inept and pretentious, which would be an understandable conclusion. But for those familiar with his work (or indeed him) they will understand the complexities at play. There isn't a filmmaker in Australia as distinctive or eccentric, and what MVP puts on the screen is the entire inner-workings of his mind. MAGANDA is a culmination of his past work and serves as a self-inflicted exorcism of his mind's congestion. The film presents itself in a variety of tropes, from being auto-biographical and psychedelic, to cliche-riddled and meta. The film has a flagrant disregard for traditional structure and forges its own path towards its conclusions.
MAGANDA is also MVP's most technically arresting and beautiful film to date. With his middle-finger held up to the concept of subtlety, he splashes every frame with vibrant colours and a kaleidoscope of techniques. From flashing blues and reds, to the saturation of white, he hurls the film on to the screen as if wanting to startle us with the splat. Each component of his story is told through a different lens, such as the crude 70's style of analogue television to represent the cops, or the crisp digital format to portray his world of filmmaking. Suffice to say the film is a constant tussle between conflicting techniques, all of which represent the mind of an important auteur, and when you add themes of multiculturalism, depression, infidelity and foreign investment (just to name some) it's clear that MVP has a lot on his mind.
The cast includes a who's who of local talent, with most being familiar to a specific circle of the indie film scene. Glenn Maynard (Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla), Kristen Condon (Under A Kaleidoscope) and Andrew Leavold (The Search For Weng Weng) are just some of the faces that you might recognise. They are joined by Anthony Lawand (credited as Lamaroc), Celina Yuen and Koki Keneko, who all give measured performances. The entire cast understands MVP's unconventional style and each of them, presumedly, gives precisely what is demanded of them. Their performances range from absurdist to poignant with key moments of frivolity and hilarity sitting back-to-back with emotionally charged monologues and heart-wrenching earnestness.
You will be strapped to find a comparable filmmaker to Matthew Victor Pastor and despite MAGANDA: PINOY BOY VS MILK MAN being the conclusion to his Aus-Filo saga I suspect that he's got a lot more to say on the matter. Here's hoping that he continues to tell his stories as fearlessly and creatively as this, and here's hoping that his unique voice is recognised by the wider global audience.
2018 | DIR: JON TURTELTAUB | STARRING: JASON STATHAM, RUBY ROSE, CLIFF CURTIS, RAINN WILSON | REVIEW BY GLENN COCHRANE.
A private deep-sea research facility discovers a subterranean chamber beneath the Mariana Trench (the deepest known point of the ocean) and when they break through the thermocline (geek speak for a thermal layer of dramatic temperature change) they release a prehistoric shark upon the world; Megalodon.. duh! This of course gives us a flimsy plot whereby a tough-as-nails rescue diver (Jason Statham) must jump in and save the day. True to convention his ex-wife also happens to be part of the research team, as well as a billionaire investor (Rainn Wilson), a punk computer geek (Ruby Rose) and their captain (Cliff Curtis). There are other characters too, but I've forgotten them already.
With lots of chasing and chomping the movie defies all logic and maintains a rapid-fire barrage of action. And if you're like me you will greet each preposterous encounter with a belly laugh and some kind of “as if” response. Whether you facepalm the constant dopiness of the characters, spit your coffee whenever the megaladon circles back or sit in disbelief at the awful set design... it soon becomes apparent that you're actually enjoying the ridicule. In fact if you were to play a drinking game while watching the movie, taking a shot for every time they yelled “there it is!” you would be maggoted before the half-way mark.
My reviews generally leave a paragraph to acknowledge the cast and their performances, but there is nothing here to critique... I mean, well... there IS, but it would be like shooting fish in a barrel. There are no good performances here. There aren't even any mediocre ones. They're all bad.
The production of THE MEG has been a notoriously troubled odyssey in Hollywood with studios tussling to get it made. At one point director Jan de Bont (Speed) was attached, as well as Guillermo del Toro and Eli Roth. In the end the job went to Jon Turteltaub (Cool Runnings, National Treasure 1 & 2) who is quite a reliable filmmaker, although his body of work - which also includes The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Instinct and Phenomenon – hardly indicates that this is the right material for him to pursue. He was the wrong guy from the get-go and in adapting the popular 1997 novel by Steve Alten he has added bologna to what was already a hammy story.
There is nothing good about THE MEG and it would be disingenuous for me to recommend it, and I would sooner steer you towards the Asylum's Mega Shark VS Giant Octopus and its sequels. But what I can say is that sometimes we need to remember what cinema is all about... escapism, and if you're looking for reality then watch Shark Week instead. Think of THE MEG as a big budget creature feature B-movie... Invite your friends over, grab a pizza and drink lots of booze. You have permission to talk over this movie... trust me, it will make it worthwhile.
2018 | DIR: JAMES OAKLEY | STARRING UMA THURMAN, TIM ROTH, ALICE EVE, SOFIA VERGARA, MAGGIE Q, PARKER POSEY, STEPHEN FRY, CRISPIN GLOVER | REVIEW BY ALEX MAYNARD.
Although married con artists Harriet and Peter (Thurman and Roth) are undeniably at THE CON IS ON’s centre, I can’t overstate how impressive the entire ensemble is. The mix of household names and cinephiles’ favourites is inspired and works better than I first imagined, leading to absurd plot threads like a love triangle between Sofia Vergara, Alice Eve and Crispin Glover. Indeed, this trio manage to breathe life into the tired trope of fictional celebrities being air-headed and vain; for instance, the self-importance given to each variation on the line “I’m making a film!” becomes laugh-out-loud funny.
Even when the jokes played out as expected, such as an extended ‘dog whisperer’ gag, they stuck the landing surprisingly well. Interestingly though, it is Harry and Peter who ultimately exude the most effortless swagger. As a result, watching them constantly deceive only to get away with it at every turn feels less like lazy writing, and more like the assuredness of old pros. Finally, it would be remiss of me to discuss the cast without mentioning how brilliant Stephen Fry is, here seeming to delight in playing a winking devil and featuring more prominently than I’d anticipated (to say any more about his role would verge on spoilers).
However, the setup bringing these characters together is nowhere near as compelling as their chemistry. Most egregiously, the writers favour alluding to Harry and Peter’s pasts rather than showing the viewer what transpired. Similarly, the film’s few flashback sequences are unfortunately vague, with Maggie Q’s mob boss/antagonist Irina consequently suffering from a severe lack of characterisation. Regardless of how many times I was told Irina has been central to many of the leads’ exploits, she never came across as more than a caricature (Q, it must be said, does her best with the limited material). Meanwhile, Harry and Peter’s planned heist also goes fundamentally unchanged throughout, compounding the absence of any stakes. Oakley ostensibly intends for the film’s suspense to come from wondering when the duo will succeed rather than if they will at all, but is unable to pull off this twist on genre conventions.
Don’t let its awkward title fool you: THE CON IS ON is a largely enjoyable crime comedy in the vein of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, albeit on a smaller scale. Overall, it seems unlikely that the film will be remembered as either a climax or nadir in the filmography of anyone involved. Yet despite the stakes never truly feeling as life-and-death as the characters claim, the cast’s sheer charisma will allow most viewers to simply sit back and be entertained.
2018 | DIR. JOEL & ETHAN COEN | STARRING TIM BLAKE NELSON, LIAM NEESON, JAMES FRANCO, TOM WAITS, ZOE KAZEN, BRENDAN GLEESON | RUNNING TIME: 133-MINUTES
And yet thank God for services like Netflix, which have given independent filmmakers and auteurs a platform to flex their artistic muscle. With the large multiplex cinemas being overrun by big-budget dreck there's little room for the little guys. Without the colossal marketing budgets of the major studios there's zero interest from exhibitors in giving screen time to unconventional filmmakers, and those big movie-houses that were once considered a place of cinematic worship are now mega factories of rubbish.
Which brings me to THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS, a new anthology film from Joel and Ethan Coen, which does for the western genre what Creepshow did for horror. Comprised of six unrelated stories the film presents itself as a storybook, and with the turn of its pages we are treated to all new chapters, each recounting entertaining and unusual chronicles.
The first story is the titular The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, starring Timothy Blake Nelson as an intrepid outlaw. True to form the Coens set the tone of their film with this hugely entertaining narrative, as told through the words of Buster Scruggs himself. With a guitar in hand he sings his way across the west, shooting whosoever dares question his integrity. It is a whimsical and graphically violent slice of genre, which not only represents the Coen aesthetic but also forewarns the viewer of a highly unconventional journey ahead.
From here we are given five more stories to varying effect, but all depicting alternative tropes of the western genre. James Franco stars as an unlucky bank robber who finds himself at the gallows more than once in Near Algodones. Liam Neeson is an aged impresario in search of a new act in Meal Ticket. Tom Waits is an ol' timer prospector on the cusp of striking gold in All Gold Canyon. Zoe Kazan is a female traveler with an uncertain future in The Gal Who Got Rattled, and Brendan Gleeson is one of two reapers amongst three other passengers travelling in a stagecoach at night in The Mortal Remains.
Adding to the huge ensemble is Stephen Root, Clancy Brown, Harry Melling, Tyne Daly, Jonjo O'Neill and Chelcie Ross amongst many others. They contribute to a massive cast, fit for an audacious and unsuspecting western adventure such as this.
The Coens are no strangers to the genre, having previously directed No Country For Old Men and True Grit. Other films of their such as Fargo, Raising Arizona and The Man With No Name have also transferred many tropes of the western genre into contemporary settings, as have – come to think of it – so many of their titles. And now with THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS there comes a sense of finality. It could be that by combining six different interpretations of the western they have fulfilled their desire to explore the genre. The mashing of styles not only makes for an audacious and captivating experience but also feels like the closing of a door. Who knows? We'll see.
The only notable disappointment of their latest film is the absence of a theatrical presentation. And with Netflix's stringent production requirements there is also a new sterile quality to their image. However, with a new platform to present their work on they have been granted the freedom to be as outrageous and subversive as they please. This is the beauty of streaming services, where originality and audaciousness is embraced. THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS is certainly a bold and fearless piece of filmmaking and whether or not it has enticed the Coen Brothers enough to commit another film to it, remains to be seen. I imagine that they will use Netflix for their more experimental endeavours, reserving their malleable, less eccentric features for theatrical release.
THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS (… and other tales of the American frontier) is a wonderful collection of quirky campfire tales, told with confidence and performed with authority. It has the Coen stamp all over it and serves as a nostalgic celebration of the classic storytelling, reminiscing those times of old when Cowboys & Indians were the stuff of legend, free from retrospective political correctness. They have delivered an absolute winner and hopefully the first of more Netflix-driven instalments.
2018 | DIRECTORS: YARROW CHENEY & SCOTT MOSIER | STARRING: BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH, RASHIDA JONES, ANGELA LANSBURY, KENAN THOMPSON, PHARRELL WILLIAMS.
So naturally my response has been the classic “wait and see” approach. Who am I to join the chorus when I haven't heard the song? I would agree that the previous film starring Jim Carrey is a bonafide classic. It is one of a few holiday movies that endures and enjoys repeat viewings every year. But that adaptation also took many liberties to reach a feature-length running time. Subplots and characters were created to enhance the narrative, and so it is logical to assume that the latest incarnation would be different, with its own charms and delights.
I regret to admit that the detractors were right. The latest retelling of The Grinch is an underwhelming and lacklustre reflection of Howard's entry, adding very little to the legacy of Seuss's creation. What can I say? Sometimes the optimist loses.
The film was produced by Illumination, the animation studio behind Despicable Me, The Secret Life of Pets and Sing. I am not a fan of their style of animation, however I did find their previous Seuss adaptation – The Lorax - to be somewhat charming. Therefore I kept that title in mind when anticipating The Grinch, with hopes of something as equally likeable. Given that the world of the Whos was well established by Dr Seuss in his original illustrated story and makes for a strong foundation, it should be noted that he also left plenty of ambiguity and room for elaboration. One would think that an animation studio of their calibre would build upon it with something aesthetically rich and engaging, but instead they have chosen to – more or less – recreate Ron Howard's design, even using his film's comedic muscle to levitate its own laborious script.
The set pieces are basically the same, with the hillside township baring a striking resemblance. The streets and shopfronts, as well as the shape of the surrounding mountainous landscape are all too familiar, with one notable point of difference being the characters themselves, whose features are less exaggerated and more human. The other worthy point of difference is its use of backstory. Just as the previous film created new subplots to elaborate on the Grinch's reason for being miserable, the new film does the same, with a more sentimental angle. Carrey's character suffered at the hands of bullies, as well as having his heart broken, whereas Cumberbatch's Grinch grew up an orphan without any family or friends. It's a welcome moment of sincerity amongst the otherwise routine delivery.
Benedict Cumberbatch assumes the title role and offers a suitable, albeit more subdued, rendition. For this depiction of Mr Grinch they have chosen subtly over exuberance and it's difficult to ignore comparisons to Carrey's take on the character. Cumberbatch's interpretation is fine and does compliment the overall story. Other notable cast members include Rashida Jones, Kenan Thompson, Angela Lansbury and Pharrell Williams who simply offer their voices without much gusto. Perhaps Thompson's performance as the Grinch's ever-cheerful, Christmas-loving neighbour is the standout. His moments are endearing and go a long way in embodying the overall holiday sentiment.
And so, sure, a few scattered moments of pleasure help to pass the time, and were it not for the fantastic soundtrack The Grinch would certainly be a forgettable movie-going experience. Legendary composer Danny Elfman brings his unique stamp to the project, although he never stood a chance of reaching the dizzying heights of his other iconic Christmas masterpiece, the Grinch-inspired The Nightmare Before Christmas. He brings an assortment of cheeky tricks to the film, including the unexpected, and entirely welcome, addition of hip-hop music. Rap artist Tyler The Creator recorded 6 original tracks for the film, and Run DMC's 1992 song Christmas Is is also featured with delight. Other musical artists featured include Jackie Wilson, The Brian Seltzer Orchestra and Nat King Cole. It is – to say the least – an ambitious marriage of new and old, making for an absolutely stunning Christmas soundtrack. One particular highlight for me was a rendition of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by Pentatonix, which contributes to one fun movie's funniest moments.
It is understandable that generations come and go, and that movies over 10-years old are considered to be "old" to younger viewers. And had Ron Howard's movie dated poorly a new adaptation would have been perfectly acceptable. But like the classics of old (such as The Wizard of Oz, Willy Wonka and Home Alone) his film has not aged one bit. It is a bold and deliciously textured fantasy full of festive wonderment. It holds up remarkably well and despite it being 18 years old (my God) it looks as though it were made yesterday. In my estimation THAT is the definitive Grinch movie, and the mark of Illumination's latest attempt will fade away long before Howard and Carrey's ever will.
2018 | DIR. ANDREW HAIGH | REVIEW BY GLENN COCHRANE.
RUNNING TIME: 121 MINUTES.
I feel that this is a story worth seeing without too much pretext, as it weaves a wonderful tale from an oblivious point of view. Charley and Pete's travels pit them against all kinds of adversities, including a merciless horse trainer, starvation and dubious strangers, and along the way we are treated to a powerhouse performance by Charlie Plummer (All The Money In The World).
Director Andrew Haigh (45 Years) has crafted a powerful cinematic odyssey, which prides itself on being modest and unsuspecting. With no frills and a low budget he lets the humanity speak for itself by way of a phenomenal screenplay – adapted from a novel by Willy Vlautin – and an ensemble of exceptional performances. Plummer occupies the entire 121-minutes of screen time delivering a stellar turn as the boy whose determination and resilience defy all odds. His humble and earnest performance is richly textured and reveals a kaleidoscope temperaments and strengths. His ability to guide his character from boyhood to manhood while never letting go of the child is a thing to behold and it would be outrageous should he be overlooked for an Oscar nomination.
His supporting cast includes Steve Buscemi as the corrupt horse trainer who takes Charley under his wing, Chloe Sevigny as the jokey whose intentions are ambiguous and Steve Zahn as an alcoholic vagrant. They are all so great, giving the calibre of performances that are equally deserving of accolades. Other players include Travis Fimmel, Alison Elliot and Lewis Pullman (son of Bill).
As I sat in the darkened cinema watching Charley's story unfold, I was overwhelmed by its emotional power. Coming-of-age films are often sentimental and heart-wrenching – to be sure – but few are as unflinching, confronting and raw as this. The narrative arch does subscribe to the familiar episodic structure of road movies, and characters come and go as expected... but how they inform the story and the nature of their intentions is surprisingly relentless. I will say no more, only that this film deserves your attention... preferably on the big screen. And final act? So beautiful... so so moving. Ok ok... enough already, I know. Just see it.
2018 | DIR. BRYAN SINGER & DEXTER FLETCHER | REVIEW BY GLENN COCHRANE.
1985 | DIR. GEOFF MURPHY | REVIEW BY GLENN COCHRANE.
Following the success of his breakthrough film Goodbye Pork Pie (‘81) and his indigenous revenge thriller Utu (‘83), he went on to make The Quiet Earth, a high-concept science fiction drama made with minimalistic artistry. Based on a novel which was itself inspired by the likes of The Omega Man (aka I Am Legend) and Dawn of the Dead, the film chronicles the aftermath of “The Effect”, a mysterious apocalyptic event that rendered the Earth uninhabited.
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2018 | DIR. ANDY NYMAN & JEREMY DYSON | REVIEW BY GLENN COCHRANE.
era of horror, full of nostalgia and accompanied by an effective suspense-driven marketing campaign.
Ghost Stories presents itself as a three-story anthology horror film, strung together with Goodman’s ongoing narrative. It harks back to the 1970s and 80s, when anthology horror movies was more popular than ever, and now the format is making a resurgence. With titles like Trick ‘r Treat, VHS, ABCs of Death and Nightmare Cinema leading the charge, we are at a moment where higher standards apply to the current saturation, and more scrutiny is placed upon new entries to the genre.
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2018 | DIR. GARETH EVANS | REVIEW BY GLENN COCHRANE.
His long awaited follow-up is a Netflix release titled Apostle and tells the story of a former Christian missionary (Dan Stevens, Downton Abbey, The Guest), who travels to an isolated Welsh island in 1905 to save his sister from the clutches of a mysterious cult. Learning of her kidnapping and demand for ransom, Thomas poses as a convert and new arrival to the island paradise, where the regular law of man is abandoned and the self-regulated society worships a goddess of the island, who is said to sustain health and wellbeing. Upon arrival he soon uncovers the island’s sinister secrets, and before having his chance to rescue his sister, he is forced to outsmart the three community founders before they sacrifice him and his sister.
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2017 | DIR. ORSON OBLOWITZ | REVIEW BY ALEX MAYNARD.
The eponymous ‘queen’, proud L.A. nightclub owner Mary, towers over the film thanks to a commanding performance from Rosemary Hochschild. Mary appears in almost every scene and is, fittingly, the most compelling character, catalysing the plot through her pursuit of the American Dream. It’s an instantly memorable, lived-in turn; Hochschild slowly but devastatingly breaks down Mary’s pragmatic businesswoman persona into a full gamut of emotions. This is her best showcase yet after decades of credits, and a convincing argument for giving Hollywood’s underappreciated character actors their time to shine. Meanwhile, the supporting cast are capable but mostly relegated to minor roles apart from Ana Mulvoy-Ten as Grace, a newcomer to Mary’s club and our audience surrogate. Indeed, Grace and Mary’s scenes together are when the horrors of this seedy world are most apparent: it may be easy to become desensitised to crime and violence after decades among it, but Mulvoy-Ten highlights how confronting it is to witness them for the first time.
Despite its tone and performances being undeniably engaging, there are basic issues that keep the film from feeling like more than a proof of concept. For instance, the dialogue appears to have been neglected in favour of Oblowitz’s directorial duties, leaving large chunks of the former feeling unpolished. Most notably, virtually every character speaks far too literally, including career criminals openly bragging about or stating their intention to commit crimes. Likewise, Mary often explicitly states her motivations as a monologue while almost looking directly into the camera, which left me unsure as to whether she’s supposed to know she’s a fictional character. Simultaneously, the editing is inconsistent to the point of distraction; some scenes abruptly start before the previous one even has time to finish, while others linger on a black screen for several seconds afterwards. This is particularly glaring given the film presents an obvious solution to the problem: it already uses intertitles to distinguish between acts, although there often seems to be little rhyme nor reason to where these act breaks fall. These are used to maintain chronology, and the notion that the film takes place over a single day, yet the latter is so unbelievable it should’ve been abandoned altogether.
THE QUEEN OF HOLLYWOOD BLVD is littered with moments that come across as deliberately quirky, as if Oblowitz is attempting to reverse engineer what makes a Tarantino film memorable or cool. Thankfully, this is largely worthwhile; even during the most cringeworthy scenes there’s a campiness that holds the viewer’s attention. Although it’s hard to be sure if all the film’s B-movie charm was intended, it’s ultimately the strongest selling point. Viewers will know whether they can handle its sheer oddness within the first few minutes, but those who stick around will be as interested as I am to see what Oblowitz and Hochschild do next.
2018 | DIR. PASHA PATRIKI | REVIEW BY SHAUN CRAWFORD.
It sees Wheeler (JCVD) awakens in a black-site submarine, a place where baddies can take prisoners and torture them away from anything resembling law or ethics, he discovers he’s being accused of being in possession of a top-secret dongle containing top-secret information that top-secret guys want. Problem is, Wheeler genuinely doesn’t have the data and now he’s trapped 30,000 leagues under the sea on a submarine fighting for his life.
Along the way he befriends fellow prisoner, Marco (Dolph Lundgren) a mysterious German man-mountain who steals the show as well as new-fish CIA agent Cass (Jasmine Waltz) and her pal Ellis (Aaron O’Connell) who contribute to the plot next to nothing squared. Cue 105-unimaginative-mins of close-quarters gun-fire in the, surprisingly and inexplicably spacious, submarine.
Penned by DTV-action stalwart Chad Law (6 Bullets, Jarhead 3, Drive Hard), BLACK WATER takes its fair share of cues from Mikael Hafstrom’s 2013 80s throwback actioneer ESCAPE PLAN. Cashing in on the fading star of the Regan-era action films, BLACK WATER’s script isn’t self-aware enough to make the viewer giddy with nostalgia nor imaginative enough to tread new ground. Instead it has a couple of decent exposition-as-ammunition exchanges and one or two moments of genuinely interesting character moments but it’s hard to shake that sinking feeling.
Serial box-jawed Lundgren is sorely under-utilized and doesn’t pull his weight nor grace us with his presence (or justify his second bill on the credits) until the third act which leaves Van Dammage to carry the lions share which he does by making the curious decision of playing the whole film looking confused and thirsty.
Jasmine Waltz sticks around and let’s her unconvincing wardrobe (do Special Ops always rock around in skivvies?) and fake-eyelashes do the acting for her.
Cinematographer-turned-Director Pasha Patriki’s debut, while capable at telling a coherent story (albeit, one devoid of anything resembling originality or irony) is sorely lacking the confident hand needed in guiding the film’s pace and visual flair. As a result BLACK WATER is a sluggish B-movie that overstays it’s welcome BUT 15-minutes or so all the while never delivering a single spark of wit.
While not as tragic as some of its stars previous efforts (*cough*AGENT RED*cough*THE ORDER*cough*) it certainly doesn’t scale to the heights of entries like UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING or THE EXPENDABLES 2.
The cast will justify the viewing by action junkies but they’ll likely be left disappointed.
2018 | DIR. PAUL GREENGRASS | REVIEW BY GLENN COCHRANE.
Since then, Greengrass has found himself comfortable amongst the Hollywood elite, having directed three Bourne films (Supremacy, Ultimatum, Jason Bourne) as well as Green Zone. And yet, remaining loyal to his calling, he has maintained his commitment to polarising true stories with films like United 93 and Captain Phillips, and now he continues his trademark style with Netflix-released film 22 July, an account of the 2011 Norway attacks by mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik.
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2018 | DIR. JOEL EDGERTON | REVEW BY GLENN COCHRANE.
Lucas Hedges stars as Jared Eamons, a gay teenager whose fundamental Christian parents force him to undergo aggressive gay conversion therapy at the hands of a ruthless “therapist”. It's a secretive, lock-in program whereby patients are put through brutal and dehumanising conditioning practices to beat the “gay” out of them. Needless to say it is a harrowing and emotionally charged film that is as confronting as it is enlightening.
Based on auto-biography of popular writer and LGBTI advocate Gerrard Conley, the film and its message feel timely, and perhaps more importantly than shedding light on such practices, it serves as a criticism of fundamental religiousness in general. Edgerton's script adheres to a conventional structure, telling Jared's story with candour and earnestness, navigating the trauma of living as a gay teenager amongst a god fearing community. Having not read the book itself I can only guess that the film mearly scratches the surface, but in doing so I am sure that the events depicted on screen collectively reflect the important bookmarks of the text. Having said that, I find it odd that Edgerton changed Conley's name to Jared Eamons when the book itself was entirely biographical, not to mention the fact that the film features the real life counterpart in the “where are they now” section of the end credits.
Edgerton's body of work as a writer and director is impressive, with his previous directorial effort, The Gift, being a masterclass in suspense, and his written work such as The Square and Felony highlighting his talent. BOY ERASED feels like a natural progression, with his style becoming more sensitive and subtle. He presents all of his characters (even the horrible ones) with humanity and context. And while some of these people are undeniably heinous, the film's thematic tone suggests a level of empathy, and serves more as a criticism of Christianity than it does the individuals.
The cast is top notch with Lucas Hedges chalking up another stellar performance. Following Manchester By The Sea, Ladybird and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, his resume is impressive and seasoned for an actors of just 21 years of age. This guy's future is bright and whatever he has lined up next is bound to impress. With a little luck he will navigate the industry carefully, sticking to credible performance driven roles.
The rest of the cast includes Edgerton as the merciless conversion therapist, Nicole Kidman as his devoted mother and Russell Crowe as his ultra conservative pastor father. Kidman and Crowe give weighty performances, both sharing an equal amount of depth. Each of their stories take alternative trajectories and observing how they manoeuvre their emotional range is impressive to watch. Adding to the Aussie domination of BOY ERASED is popular pop singer Troy Sivan as an unassuming therapy patient whose strategy of survival provides an important turning point in the narrative. He is very good and has a natural onscreen charisma.
The unfortunate reality of BOY ERASED is that only those aligned with its point of view are likely to see it. The actual viewers the film sets out to challenge are highly unlikely to give it the time of day, and won't want a bar of it. And so short of tricking them into the cinema and locking the doors, the film will reassure supporters of the LGBT plight while doing little to capture the attention of those who don't. Here's hoping that, at the very least, SOME of the cinephiles amongst the conservative demographic will stay the course and come away better educated on the issue.
2018 | DIRECTOR. LUCA GUADAGINO | REVIEW BY GLENN COCHRANE.
I have to confess that I am not precious about Argento's film (the first in his 'Three Mothers Trilogy') and I do think that it's considerably overrated. I adore its atmosphere and cannot deny its incredible artistry, however I can't say the same for its story (or lack thereof) or for any of its acting. It holds a place in the horror pantheon, absolutely, but I don't hold it in such esteem that a remake would upset me.
And so here it is. SUSPIRIA '18, an epic 152-minute odyssey into the nightmarish recesses of a Berlin ballet school. Set in 1977 Dakota Johnson stars as Susie, an American ballerina who travels to West Germany to study at a renowned dance academy under the guidance of the famed Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton). Before long it becomes obvious that something's amiss and that the school fosters a sinister secret. The academy, it turns out, is a facade for a coven of witches (no spoiler in that), and their students are purely for sacrificial purposes as they attempt to raise the great Mother Suspiriorum.
The overall plotting is basically the same as Argento's film, however more time and attention has been invested in joining the dots. There is little room for confusion as the narrative trots along lineally, and where the original film concerned itself with surrealism and dreamscape imagery, this new adaptation is all about story. Its notable set-pieces are certainly striking, and the horror is wincingly macabre, however Guadagnino takes a literal approach to his visceral storytelling.
Dakota Johnson makes for an unassuming lead, presenting a modest beauty free of glamour. She is eloquent, softly spoken and outrageously flexible and graces the screen with a performance that is as unsettling as it is gracious. Swinton is expectedly morose as the stern practitioner whose expectations and methods are notorious, and she commands a sinister screen presence. The remaining cast are adequate, giving good support, although their characters are not integral enough to focus any substantial attention on, aside from their ensembled scenes of witchcraft.
The weakest link, however, is Swinton (say what?). Ah-huh... the rumours were true and the jig is up. Swinton also played an aging therapist character by the name of Dr Jozef Klemperer. With a face-hugging prosthetic makeup and other less-than-subtle aging techniques, her identity was never in doubt. If an old guy looks like Tilda Swinton and sounds like Tilda Swinton, then it's Tilda Swinton. Klemperer is at first a great character with an important role in exposing the academy's secret, however casting Swinton in the role instead of an actual male actor feels disingenuous to the audience. Adding further insult is the silly and unnecessary subplot given to the character. Through a series of flashbacks we are given his backstory, telling a tale of love-divided as the formation of East and West Germanys separated him and his wife. None of this hogwash is integral to the greater narrative and had Guadagnino removed it the film would have come in as a more respectable running time with more impact.
One of the most iconic attributes to Argento's '77 film is the all-encompassing soundtrack by Italian prog-rockers Goblin. It was a benchmark for music in horror and recreating its impact was never an option for any remake, and so the best port of call was to attach a respected musician with an infinity for the strange and intricate. Cue Thom Yorke (Radiohead), whose approach to SUSIRIA is eclectic, haunting and alarming. His music is phenomenon and the film is full of fantastic moments where music and imagery soar to majestic heights. BUT.... there's an overall disconnection as a whole. His score feels too contemporary and modern for a period piece set in the 1970s. With an adequate level of suspended disbelief it's a factor that's easily overlooked, however given the needless subplot of the psychologist and the hidden-Swinton factor, such a discrepancy between the music and the era detracts from the film's overall impact.
SUSPIRIA '18 is a very good film that should have been great. It is a long haul with substantial payoffs strewn throughout. It never detracts from the original film and it aught to quench the thirst of most respectable horror fiends.