13 December 2017

The Disaster Artist review


The Room is almost inarguably the king of "so bad it's good" cinema, a movie so obviously incompetent at every possible level of both film-making and story-telling that it genuinely has to be seen to be believed, but it's the man at the centre of it all, Tommy Wiseau, that really makes it such a fascination. He's not just someone who wrote, directed and starred in a hilariously awful movie - he's also a bizarre, eccentric figure who looks like an alien in a poorly fitted and badly designed skin suit and somehow sounds even stranger, which is only the start of what makes him such an oddity of a public figure. No-one knows how he funded what ended up being the absurdly expensive production of The Room; no-one knows what country he was born in; hell, no-one even knows how old he really is. He is, quite literally, an enigma.

Naturally then, "fans" of Wiseau's trashterpiece are sure to find a lot to enjoy in The Disaster Artist, which is based on The Room co-star Greg Sestero's "The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made". Opening when Greg and Tommy first met at an acting class in 1998 and following them as they move to Hollywood before deciding to make their own movie, The Disaster Artist explores both the relationship between the two of them and The Room's more than just troubled production.

3 December 2017

Ranking the films of the DC Extended Universe

Oh, Christ.

Warner Bros might not be separating their DC Extended Universe films into distinct "phases" in the same way that Marvel Studios have their Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it's pretty obvious that Justice League is the culmination of the DCEU to date in the same way that Avengers Assemble once was for the MCU. As such, with 5 films under its belt it seems only appropriate that we attempt to put these films in some kind of ordered list from worst to best. That the majority of these films are outright terrible makes this something of an unrewarding and difficult task - nevertheless;

5. Suicide Squad

Even referring to David Ayer's Suicide Squad as "a movie" seems like a compliment it hasn't earned - never before had I seen such a poorly edited, incompetently directed and terribly written collection of scenes on the big screen, which when combined with Jared Leto's grimy STD Joker and a confused, ugly aesthetic makes Suicide Squad one of the most deeply unpleasant, cringe-worthy cinema-going experiences I've ever had. That it has its defenders is frankly beyond me - it's anti-entertainment, and I refuse to spend any more time thinking or writing about it than I already have.

You can read my original review of this irredeemable trash here.


23 November 2017

Justice League review


As much as I'd hoped otherwise, you simply can't talk about Justice League - DC/Warner Bros' would-be answer to Marvel Studios' Avengers Assemble - in any meaningful way without first talking about its arduous journey to the screen. The long version of this story is an article all by itself, and still shrouded in secrecy and PR spin - the short version is that Justice League's production was already marred by heavy studio interference even before Joss Whedon was brought in to write and direct reshoots in the wake of Zack Snyder stepping away due to a family tragedy, and unfortunately the resulting film is exactly as messy and conflicted as that might indicate. It's a Frankenstein's monster of a movie, torn between Snyder's original vision, Snyder's course-corrected version of the film and Joss Whedon's version of the film following Snyder's departure, and this clash of styles, tones and approaches ends up being far more than just a small problem - it's pretty much the films defining feature.

Following the death of Superman in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Justice League sees Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince attempting to create a team of superheroes to battle an incoming threat in the form of Steppenwolf, who intends to terraform the Earth on behalf of his master, Darkseid. With him are an army of Parademons, who have been kidnapping people in an attempt to learn the whereabouts of the Mother Boxes, three ancient ancient artefacts that once united give Steppenwolf the power to complete his plan.

13 November 2017

Murder on the Orient Express review


The world might not have been waiting with bated breath for a new Poirot film, but I'd be lying if I said that the first trailer for Kenneth Branagh's Murder on the Orient Express didn't pique my interest. Bright neon writing, an Imagine Dragons soundtrack, a lengthy tracking shot from a first-person perspective before the reveal of the greatest moustache you've ever seen - Murder on the Orient Express looked radically different from what I expected, which when combined with a really impressive ensemble cast made it something I was actually kind of excited to see.

And for good reason, it turns out. While hardly a must-see movie or the genre revitalisation I had hoped for, Murder on the Orient Express is still a mostly well-made and very watchable detective yarn, the kind that you don't often see anymore. You know the story - there's been a murder on the Orient Express, and it's up to Hercule Poirot (who is "probably ze greatest detective in ze world") to figure out whodunnit.

31 October 2017

Brawl in Cell Block 99 review


From the very opening scene of writer/director S. Craig Zahler's Brawl in Cell Block 99, we understand that main character Bradley Thomas is a man of barely tempered rage. A slab of meat 6'5" tall, he seems to be just one annoyance too many away from seriously messing somebody up, and while he's clearly self-aware enough to try to keep his temper under control, it's a silent, ever-present threat whenever he's on-screen. He's effectively a ticking time bomb - how long can it possibly be before he explodes? And which of these people is going to be the one that finally pushes him over the edge?

It's these questions and the sense of anticipation they create that keeps Brawl in Cell Block 99 engaging throughout, which (as with last year's Bone Tomahawk) Zahler is completely uninterested in rushing. It takes a long time before Bradley reaches the titular Cell Block 99 - the rest of the film (by which I mean the vast majority of it) is spent following Bradley as he moves from car mechanic to drug mule to convict, allowing us plenty of time to become well-acquainted with Bradley and see that he isn't just the intimidating, rage-fuelled psychopath he first appears to be but a flawed, caring human being who is aware of his shortcomings and trying his hardest to make up for them. It may be a gritty, grimy exploitation flick at heart, but it also quite clearly has an interest in its characters beyond just how much misery it can put them through, and that helps elevate Brawl in Cell Block 99 above films of a similar nature without forcing it to pull its punches later on.

27 October 2017

Thor: Ragnarok review


Up until now, has anyone really cared about the Thor films all that much? Even as a pretty big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they're two of the movies I'm least likely to revisit - not because they're outright bad (they aren't), but because they're rarely anything more or less than just purely functional, coming across as uninspired and uninspiring in a way that makes them stick out like a sore thumb when compared to the rest of this franchise. When Marvel Studios first announced the slate of films that would make up Phase 3 of the MCU, no-one seemed particularly interested in whatever the fairly blandly titled Thor: Ragnarok would be, leaving the studio with just pressing one question: how do you solve a problem like the Thor films?

The answer, as it turns out, is to bring What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople director Taika Waititi on board. With Thor: Ragnarok, Waititi has taken all that didn't work about the previous films (so, almost everything other than the relationship between Thor and Loki) and thrown it straight in the garbage, clearing the table for him to completely reinvent the franchise and making a damn good movie in the process.

We rejoin the titular God of Thunder two years after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, in which time he has been travelling around the universe in an attempt to learn as much about the Infinity Stones as possible. After finding out that it is Loki, not Odin, who sits on the throne of Asgard following the events of Thor: The Dark World, Thor confronts his brother and travels with him to Earth in order to find Odin and return him to the throne - but ends up accidentally gets himself stranded on the junk planet Sakaar in the process, leaving Asgard vulnerable to attack from Hela, the Goddess of Death.

14 October 2017

Blade Runner 2049 review


How do you even begin to talk about a film like Blade Runner 2049? No matter which way you look at it, making a sequel to Ridley Scott's Blade Runner was always going to be an enormous risk, whether that be the financial risk of creating a decades late, high profile, big budget sequel to a film that originally flopped at the box office or the creative risk of being responsible for a disappointing follow up to what is often considered to be the greatest science fiction movie ever made. Frankly, it's a miracle that Blade Runner 2049 even exists at all - the fact that it's actually ended up being a good film is really just the unlikely icing on this already incredibly implausible cake.

Because yes, Blade Runner 2049 is indeed a good film, occasionally veering into genuine greatness. But maybe more surprisingly, it's also a worthy follow up to the original, one that uses the story of Blade Runner as a stepping off point for its own exploration of this world, both narratively and thematically. We follow K, a Blade Runner for the LAPD, as he is tasked with secretly investigating a chest that was found buried under the farm of a Replicant that he recently retired.

28 September 2017

mother! review


"I feel like I've just been assaulted". That's the first thing a friend of mine had to say after leaving the cinema following mother!, and it's also as accurate a description of director Darren Aronofsky's latest as you're likely to read. It's a cruel and upsetting movie that the vast majority of people simply aren't going to enjoy, but for some, it's also going to be nothing short of one of the most powerful cinematic experiences they're likely to have this year. If you already intend to see mother!, please, stop reading this review right now and simply go see it - it's definitely a film that benefits from knowing as little as possible about it in advance, and I'd hate to colour your opinion about what mother! is actually about before you've even seen it.

Yes, it's one of those kinds of films. It's also, I think, a masterpiece.

mother! follows a young woman (not one of the characters in mother! has a name until the credits) who is living with her older husband in his house, one that she has rebuilt following a terrible fire. After a stranger claiming to be a doctor shows up at their door, the husband invites him to stay with them, much to the chagrin of the young woman. Not long afterwards, the stranger's wife shows up and starts living with them too, and before long any semblance of normalcy has been broken as the house becomes over run with people.

22 September 2017

Kingsman: The Golden Circle review


I'm a pretty big fan of director Matthew Vaughn, but one thing that has always frustrated me is his reluctance to make sequels to his films. Not because his films desperately need sequels, but because the sequels end up being made anyway and never live up to his original film - Bryan Singer's X-Men: Days of Future Past manages to waste all the potential that Vaughn's X-Men: First Class left the franchise with, and the less said about the abortive Kick-Ass 2, the better. So when it was announced that Vaughn would be returning to the director's chair for the sequel to his brilliant Kingsman: The Secret Service, I was genuinely excited - even if the world doesn't strictly need a second Kingsman film, at least this sequel had a decent chance of being good.

Instead, Kingsman: The Golden Circle quite firmly answers the question of why Vaughn doesn't make sequels.

Following an attack from a powerful drug cartel that devastates the Kingsman organisation, Kingsman: The Golden Circle follows Eggsy and Merlin as they travel to America in order to team-up with their American counterparts, the Statesman. It turns out that the Statesman have been looking after a somehow still alive Harry Hart since he was shot in the previous film, but the retrograde amnesia he's suffering from means he remembers nothing from his life as a Kingsman. Around the same time, the leader of the aforementioned drug cartel, the Americana-obsessed Poppy Adams, announces to the world that she's been poisoning her product, and won't release the antidote to her hundreds of millions of users around the world until the President of the USA ends the War on Drugs once and for all.

19 September 2017

It review


Is it sacrilege for a film critic to admit that his only knowledge of Stephen King comes in the form of Frank Darabont's adaptations of The Shawshank Redemption and The Mist? It certainly feels like it at the moment - every other review of Andy Muschietti's adaptation of It seems to be written by people well-acquainted with both the novel and the 1990 mini-series, and that can't help but paint me as at least somewhat ignorant when it comes to this film. That said, a fresh pair of eyes is often a useful perspective to have when it comes to adaptations of much beloved things, and from where I'm standing, It is nothing less than a damn fine horror movie, regardless of how much you do or don't know about the story beforehand.

Set over the course of roughly a year during the late 80's, It takes place in the small town of Derry, which despite looking like a fairly normal town has an unusually high rate of missing people cases, especially amongst children. After a young boy named Georgie goes missing during a rainstorm, his almost-teenage brother Bill becomes obsessed with finding him in the town's sewers - but soon discovers that there is something terrible lurking under the town, something that begins to hunt Bill and his group of friends by using their deepest, darkest fears against them.