2017 | DIR. GEORGE RUSSELL | REVIEW BY ALEX MAYNARD
This unevenness is exemplified by how much stronger the film becomes in its second half during the profile of weev. Given how fascinating he is to watch and hear, it’s no surprise that Auernheimer’s story is similarly thought-provoking; in fact, it’s likely that viewers who don’t recognise his name will at least recall some of the events recounted here. For instance, in 2010 weev helped reveal an AT&T security flaw allowing iPad user information to be viewed by any member of the public with enough computer savvy, an incident that received significant media attention. Russell shows impressive restraint throughout, forming a clear stance in support of weev and his fellow hackers without simply condemning AT&T. Rather, as the fallout escalates into criminal charges and jail sentences, TROLL INC. sets its sights on the U.S. government’s fear of the unknown, a gutsy contention that’s admirable for continuing to feature interviews from both points of view. It’s shockingly difficult to reach a definitive consensus on whether weev actually committed a crime during the AT&T incident, but it’s once again to Russell’s credit that the conclusion feels appropriate and triumphant.
However, the broader scope of the film’s early interviews leaves it lacking momentum prior to the focus on weev. I can appreciate that situating trolling in the context of 21st century society may be necessary for viewers who haven’t spent much time online, with the academic Gabriella Coleman proving particularly insightful. Yet these scenes will be a chore for those with background knowledge, feeling like pointless reminders of definitions at best and patronising at worst. Perhaps different audiences will respond more positively to this informative approach (indeed, generational shifts in technology use will likely make this segment helpful for older viewers), but I’m not convinced Russell fully considered who the target demographic was supposed to be. After all, TROLL INC.’s second half is overtly critical of the technologically conservative as mentioned above; I can’t imagine such people even watching this film, let alone having their minds changed by it.
TROLL INC. is at its best when its intriguing subject matter is combined with a compelling argument, both of which weev provides in spades. Regardless of your thoughts on trolling, the importance of these case studies to understanding media and technology convergence make the film feel vital, standing alongside Citizenfour in how well it captures modern society.
2016 | DIR. SOPHIE GOODHART | REVIEW BY ALEX MAYNARD.
I can imagine Robbie’s (Scott) disability being insensitively depicted at the hands of a lesser auteur and performer, but here I found that his characterisation was impressively nuanced. Scott has arguably perfected portraying assholes between Step Brothers and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, a skill that Robbie’s early scenes wisely allow him to demonstrate. As alluded to above, I was pleased that the humour often stemmed from the rude and obnoxious behaviour of a person who happens to be blind rather than solely making them the butt of a joke, although there are some wickedly funny taboo moments such as an argument between Rose (Slate) and Bill (Kroll) during Robbie’s swimming practice. Yet simultaneously, this decision not to reduce the jokes to simple cheap shots at blindness mirrors Robbie’s own desire not to let his disability define him, which Scott conveys brilliantly in a late dramatic shift. I wasn’t sure whether MY BLIND BROTHER would have time to fully develop the character given its previous attention to the Bill-Rose-Robbie love triangle, but this was definitely a case of better late than never. While Ben Wyatt may still be my favourite Adam Scott role, Robbie sets a new benchmark for his film career.
Conversely, Bill readily defines himself by one thing, or rather, one event: he’s responsible for the accident that caused Robbie’s disability. The film’s first reference to this is mid-conversation, dropped so casually among pick up lines and jokes that viewers might almost miss it. Kroll and Goodhart not only reveal just how Bill’s intense guilt has stayed with him decades later, but also how it’s informed the feeling that he deserves his dead-end life as penance. I loved that these ideas utilised a ‘show, don’t tell’ approach, distinguishing themselves from the myriad tragic backstories in fiction. However, I was disappointed that there weren’t many scenes featuring Bill without Rose or Robbie, leaving details that the film had bothered to introduce such as his job feeling underdeveloped; in my opinion, Bill’s lack of ambition would’ve been better represented if there were a clearer sense of what he forces himself to settle for. Meanwhile, Rose is easily MY BLIND BROTHER’s most frustrating character, veering quickly from relatable uncertainty to baffling decisions. For instance, while Slate convincingly portrays grief and anxiety, I literally rolled my eyes when Rose told Robbie she loved him. The contradiction I perceived between her feelings and actions was unfortunately never resolved, and perhaps explains why the film’s ending came across as inconsequential.
MY BLIND BROTHER ambles along steadily, thankfully retaining its leads’ charm without their lack of direction. Although its arcs aren’t as carefully considered as the balance between humour and drama, the stellar performances from Kroll, Slate, and particularly Scott will please anyone thinking of giving it a look.
2018 | DIR. RON HOWARD | REVIEW BY GLENN COCHRANE.
It would be misleading to call Solo: A Star Wars Story an origin story, and with the movie focusing on a twenty-something Han Solo at a time when he meets Chewbacca and Lando for the first time, it is better described simply as a prequel. Alden Ehrenreich (Blue Jasmine, Hail Caesar) steps into Harrison Ford’s incredibly big shoes and assumes the character effortlessly, and with this important piece of casting, the audience is reassured that the fallacy of The Last Jedi would not infect this new recalibration.
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2018 | DIR. CHRISTIAN GUDEGAST | REVIEW BY SHAUN CRAWFORD.
Set in the bank robbery capital of the world, L.A. (there’s a heist every 48-minutes, apparently) it has Scotsman - Gerard Butler - as ‘Big’ Nick, the leader of a by-any-means-necessary County Sheriffs unit dedicated to stopping bank robbers.
He’s a rough-around-edges kinda guy who marches to the beat of his own drum (one sequence where he’s eating donuts from a blood-spattered box on the ground at a crime scene is particularly revealing) who is having familial problems and doesn’t mind letting his fists do the talking.
On the flip side, there’s Merriman (Pablo Schreiber), a slick, calculating professional thief who runs his band of brothers with logic and precision. When Merriman and his crew hatch a plan to rob the one bank in LA that has never been robbed, the holiest-of-holies, the Federal Reserve, Big Nick and the boys do everything they can to get in their way. From here it’s a game of cat-and-mouse as each group tries to outsmart and outplay the other while the stakes escalate.
First time director Christian Gudegast does a workmanlike job handling the sprawling saga, conjuring a gritty, boots-on-the-ground feel that is one of the films strongest points. There’s more than a hint of Mann in his neon-slicked compositions and his synth-heavy score, and even more in his depiction of serious professional people doing serious professional things.
An aging Gerard Butler growls his way through the plot seemingly enjoying his chance to play a proper dirty character. This is possibly the most interesting thing he’s ever done, finally getting a bit of range and dichotomy and not simply relying on his extraordinary physique to carry the lion’s share of the character.
Schrieder, on the other hand, has less to do aside from looking cold and detached, but as an adversary to Big Nick and his litany of problems, it’s a necessary counterpoint.
It’s not as action-packed as you might think and it should get credit for not sacrificing the smaller, more intimate moments in lieu of full-throttle street battles (that being said, when it does kick-off it kicks off in a spectacular way), but what you really have to tip your hat to is the sheer bravado of aiming at getting into the same echelons as Michael Mann’s trademark territory. You need a wheelbarrow to carry around those kind of cajones.
2018 | DIR. DAVID LEITCH | REVIEW BY GLENN COCHRANE.
Enter David Leitch, a relative newcomer whose capacity for strong, action-driven cinema was proven (and then some) by his astonishing films John Wick and Atomic Blonde. He came to the table with his guns fully loaded, and with a scriptwriting alliance including Reynolds, he conjured a formula that would carry the franchise forward with confidence and style.
The lack of originality and an overwhelming sense of déjà vu was always going to be DEADPOOL 2's shortcoming, and it certainly does maintain the stamina of its predecessor. But where a blatant “rehash” would be condemned in any other film, DP2 has the benefit of being entirely meta and self-referential. It has the ability to look at its own reflection and call out its imperfections, and this deception is where the viewer needs to hold it to account. “More of the same” is tantamount to laborious, and so while perpetuating the R-rated stylings that fans swooned over, Leitch has had to throw as much shit at the wall as possible, knowing that some of it will stick.
The story has Deadpool forming the X-Force, a ragtag fighting team comprised of ruthless mutants including Cable (Josh Brolin) and Domino (Zazie Beetz) amongst others. While grieving the loss of his partner (Morena Baccarin) Deadpool sets about saving a teenage mutant, Russell Collins - who calls himself Firefist - from letting his rage lead him down a path of catastrophic consequence. Of course along the way the audience is treated to a cavalcade of cameos and an abundance of violence... not to mention a relentless barrage of comedy.
And so the question is; is DEADPOOL 2 better than DEADPOOL 1? No it isn't. But is it good? Yes... yes it is. The sucker-punch-effect of the first movie's impact is gone, and an overcompensation of vulgarity and gore has taken its place. In fact the film is so stocked with jokes that it teeters on the edge of exhaustion. And the violence has been elevated to the point of being horrific. Not only is the action graphic, it's as close to repulsive as a superhero movie will ever get. And with no stone left unturned the film is intentionally gratuitous, painfully convoluted and yet entirely enjoyable. It also happens to possess an unexpected sentimentality, with Reynold's character going through the motions of grief as the story unfolds.
Reynolds assumed his character in the first instalment and now he stakes his claim! He is entirely commanding on screen and delivers the brand of wit that only he knows how. Whether spitting lines from behind his mask, or cracking wise through his “over-ripened avocado” prosthetics he teases the audience with the type of maniacal pleasure that a super-villain might enjoy.
Josh Brolin joins the cast and gives a fantastic turn as the ever-popular Cable. It is a stoic and robust performance that offers a springboard for Reynolds to riff off. He is a welcome addition to the franchise, as is New Zealand teenager Julian Dennison (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) whose crossover to Hollywood has been natural. He is very good indeed, and yet those of us from Down Under who know his work (and his ability) it is clear that he has been underutilised. Perhaps the American sensibilities aren't aligned with his classic New Zealand nuances, or maybe he has been miscast as Rusty Collins... because as wonderful as his on-screen presence is, his character feels out of place; integral – yes – but mismatched with the overall texture of the movie.
Needless to say, DEADPOOL 2 is an aggressive and fascinating movie-going experience, which delivers what the audience expects, and then dumps a shit-tonne more on them. Whether or not that additional injection of energy is too much, will depend on the viewer. I would have preferred a little less acerbic humour, to be honest, and I found the movie to be rather strenuous. The plot meanders and ricochets all over the place, hoping that it's wide net snags as many laughs as possible, and for that reason it fails to match the integrity of the first movie. Nevertheless it's a whole lot of fun and it packs one hell of a wallop. Over reaching, over done and over the top... but overall FUN.