Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Movie Review: Tenet

My second full-on movie review in four years! Why not!
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Starring:
John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki
Director:
Christopher Nolan (Inception, Dunkirk)
Rating: M
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Before the year turned over, 2020 looked to be studded with tentpole film releases. A new James Bond movie, two big Marvel Studios releases, another wave of Disney live-action remakes, two new Pixar films, and at least one DC juggernaut. And yet for many of us out there, the promise of a new Christopher Nolan movie with another trademark timey-wimey gimmick stood above them all. Perhaps it was the ‘surefire sequel success’ vibes of most of the above, contrasting starkly with Nolan‘s stubborn refusal to leave behind practical effects, needless IMAX shots and fiercely original scripts with no concern for cinematic universes. Tenet loomed large.

Of course we all know that’s pretty far from how 2020 actually played out. Here in this current reality, most of those tentpoles have yet to see release. New movies in general have been hard to come by, matter of fact, even though streaming services have been more than willing to help out. Yet Nolan‘s reliable stubbornness has now ensured that not only is Tenet going exclusively to cinemas, it’s doing so before any other title of comparable size and hype. If Tenet looked like an imposing 2020 title before, it’s now positively monolithic. For this and many other reasons, I’ve actually written a full review. Yeah, 2020 is weird for us all.

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Ten 2020 Movies Summarised in Ten Words Each

Well, this was tricky.

For obvious 2020-specific reasons, it’s quite difficult to see any fresh films right about now. Cinemas are not exactly prime real estate at the moment, and quite a few movies on my to-see list have been delayed either several months or indefinitely. After tearing through seven new release movies in six weeks, it took me a full two months to see my eighth. Then, thanks to the help of one or two major movie studios and digital entertainment platforms, I reached the ten you see here. Who even knows whether I’ll get to twenty this year.

Even before the current global health crisis began to gather steam, I was struggling with whether some of these films counted as 2020 releases, but that became less of an issue once our bigger problems emerged. At the very least, all ten of these movies got their wide mainstream releases in Australia this year.

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The Gentlemen

Hunnam, Grant, Farrell dominate the screen. Ritchie’s best since Snatch.”

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1917

Utterly spectacular on a technical level but don’t expect optimism.”

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Best of 2019: Top 10 Movies

Like any other recent year, I spent the majority of 2019 trying to see as many movies as I could, thoroughly enjoying posting an entry in my ten word review series every time I passed another ten-film milestone. I wrote up two of those this year – a decent effort I thought, given some years I’ve struggled to get to 20 movies.

Four of those 20 made this list.

Yep, although the first two thirds of the year were certainly no slouch, that final bit brought the goods like nothing else and turned 2019 into a banner year for worthwhile theatrical adventures (though sadly I haven’t seen Parasite yet). In the process it transformed this list from a Disney-dominated extravaganza to a… slightly less Disney-dominated extravaganza. Yay for a bit of competition, right?

Happy New Year!

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VR BEST OF 2019 DISCLAIMER

This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. To agree with me 100% is rarer than an EA game without microtransactions. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.

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10. Toy Story 4

This was a strong year for animation to be sure, but the most surprisingly good dose of it came from Pixar’s initially derided bonus sequel to the beloved Toy Story trilogy. Pixar is still doing a fair amount of good stuff in the modern era, but this still felt like a cash grab when it was announced. Then it actually came out, and wow. The team who brought you a heart-rending tale about growing up now brings you a heart-rending tale about parenthood and shifting between phases in your adult life. Oh, it’s also the prettiest animation you ever done seen, and it’s by far the funniest Toy Story movie yet. Unafraid to use only the legacy characters it needs in order to serve this particular story, it also introduces a hilarious set of new ones and none of them outstay their welcome. Toy Story 4 kicks a come-from-behind goal to beat 23 other movies to the tenth slot.

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Best of 2019: Top 10 Movie Scenes

Now we arrive at the year’s most stacked and probably most fun list. I had a shortlist of 28 scenes from 31 movies to whittle down to ten, and it’s been a good time reliving these well-constructed moments of tension, emotional catharsis or just plain fun at the movies. But while sifting through the shortlist I had a wild realisation: 2019 was a real good year for movie songs. I’ve got three of them on the main list and two in the honourable mentions, but worry not – there’s plenty of other stuff too. Including, obviously, lots and lots of big fat spoilers.

Proceed with caution.

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VR BEST OF 2019 DISCLAIMER

This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. To agree with me 100% is rarer than an EA game without microtransactions. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.

MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD!

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10. All Hands on Deck – Shazam!

Like quite a few people out there, outside of Batman and friends I’m not a huge DC guy. There’s an awful lot about DC Comics characters that I don’t know. I also did not keep up with a ton of the marketing for Shazam! So I had no idea that the titular character has a super-powered foster family in the comics with whom he fights bad guys. But it didn’t take long for the movie to charm me – and make me well up a bit – with its regular human foster family plot. The movie’s portrayal of believably flawed kids living together in a community held together by a ridiculously patient couple really, really got me. So when the finale places a bunch of dominoes in a row in order to set up that power-dividing moment, it felt triumphant and earned. The fight afterwards is incredibly cheesy and a bit too neatly staged, but it was hard to care. I was having too much fun.

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Best of 2019: Top 10 Movie Characters

And so it is on this joyous Christmas Day that we raise our glasses to the cinematic characters that jumped off the big screen and our streaming devices in 2019; holding up parts of a story that were otherwise flagging, stealing scenes on the regular, or simply sticking with us after the credits rolled on their stories. I saw a lot of movies this year so I had a pretty great pool from which to draw.

Whether due to an acting performance, visual design, writing or a combination of all three, these are my ten favourite movie characters of 2019. As is usually the case on these lists, you tend to be more interesting to me if you’re a supporting character or a villain; but there were a few kinda-exceptions to that de facto rule this year.

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VR BEST OF 2019 DISCLAIMER

This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. To agree with me 100% is rarer than an EA game without microtransactions. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.

THERE ARE SPOILERS ON THIS PAGE!

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10. Jack – Mary Poppins Returns

Step right up and see the majesty that is Lin Manuel Miranda in full flight, snacking on scenery like only a man with musical theatre in his blood can. Taking on the surrogate role of the working-class sage / super Poppins fanboy made famous by the great Dick Van Dyke’s chimney sweep Bert, Miranda’s clear glee at being on the screen in such a huge Disney production helps sell Jack the lamplighter’s contagious energy like nothing else. When you choose to make a sequel that by design repeats the musical beats and character archetypes of its iconic predecessor, direct comparisons were always going to be made; but the Hamilton man holds his own in Van Dyke’s shadow. At the very least, his cockney accent is better.

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Ten More 2019 Movies Summarised in Ten Words Each

More for you.

This is by far the quickest I’ve got to 20 new-release movies in a year, as we’re still only in August. Sadly it’s a lower-quality batch than the first ten of 2019, but I still enjoyed myself with most of these, and there’s still plenty of time to bring the year home strong.
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Aladdin

Surprisingly strong visuals, Will Smith is back, Naomi Scott DESTROYS.”

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X-Men: Dark Phoenix

One amazing train sequence can’t save this disappointing saga finale.”

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Ten 2019 Movies Summarised in Ten Words Each

Let’s do this again, hopefully not for the only time in 2019. Ten movies, ten words each. In general I’ve really enjoyed the movies I’ve seen this year, from the family-targeted fare to the unusually gigantic superhero action, with a Netflix debut thrown in. There’s much more to come but the year has already made quite an impression.

And get ready for some really colourful movie posters. Man, Hollywood has stepped up their saturation game recently.

Very mild spoilers may follow.
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How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

Doesn’t beat Number 2 but the closing scenes are devastating.”

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Mary Poppins Returns

Somehow gets away with being both a sequel and remake.”

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Ranking All the Marvel Movies (Again)

So a long time ago on this blog I posted a ranking of my favourite Marvel Studios movies, back when there were only 10 out in the wild and the idea of a proper shared cinematic universe was fresh and exciting. Time moves so fast nowadays that we’ve already blown right past 20, and while the MCU is now a household term with more familiarity around it, the films that have released since are also more confident and the average quality level is arguably higher. With a rather clear sense of finality hanging over the upcoming Avengers: Endgame, I’ve been rewatching a bunch of Marvel films to refresh myself – with the ultimate goal of having watched each film available on Blu-ray at least twice overall – and so a list refresh is also in order. This is all expressly my opinion, of course.
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21. The Incredible Hulk

This may be the bottom of the list, but let it not be said that I didn’t enjoy re-watching The Incredible Hulk regardless. I don’t believe that any MCU movie is outright bad, after all. If you pretend Ed Norton is Mark Ruffalo it kinda still works. Once upon a time I looked at this particular story as the less exciting of the two modern Hulk movies (the other being Ang Lee’s utterly bizarre 2003 Eric Banner-led Hulk), and nowadays it still looks more unnecessarily self-serious and grim than almost every other Marvel movie. But because it does so without that colour-washed filter a lot of other Marvel movies use, the majority of the film still stands apart with a grainy-yet-saturated grime. Every scene in Brazil is a surprisingly vivid delight as a result – though the bombastic finale’s reliance on a bucketload of dated shades-of-grey CGI makes it a bit cringey to watch nowadays, not to mention hard to follow. Liv Tyler is a polarising performer at the best of times but I don’t like her in this movie, though Tim Roth makes for a fun, believable villain. There are more wider MCU connections here than you might remember – including an important final shot – but it’s still the black sheep of the Marvel Studios output.

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Best of 2018: Top 10 Movies

We’re here at the end already – 2018 is a wrap! I thank you once again for reading – This has been an exhausting but hugely rewarding fortnight of opportunistic writing and the engagement I’ve seen has helped make it all worthwhile. On to the final list.

We return to a Top 10 format for movies – the default I would usually prefer to have. I saw just over twice that amount in the cinemas this year, so fewer than in 2017 but still much more than some years I’ve made myself form a Top 10. I’m pretty happy with this list, as despite its rather heavy comic book movie flavour I feel like it effectively filters out all the so-so movies that I otherwise might have felt a bit iffy about including (most of them from the first half of the year). Not being able to see any of the Boxing Day movies in time sucks, but what can you do. Please enjoy this final list of 2018!

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VR BEST OF 2018 DISCLAIMER

This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s odd, but let’s have a beer. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.

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10. Deadpool 2

Comedy movie sequels tend to have spotty track records – though comic movie sequels usually fare a bit better – so Deadpool 2 was up against it from the start. Luckily, the decision to put the vastly increased budget this time around towards a flood of fun new characters and much bigger action beats helps distract from the slight staleness of the central joke that fuels the lead character’s appeal. With a host of enthusiastic performances and at least three standout scenes (the air drop, the truck chase and the post-credits), Deadpool 2 is a worthwhile second outing for Ryan Reynolds’ fever dream.

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Best of 2018: Top 10 Movie Scenes

In stark contrast to yesterday, here’s a list where my options seemed to overflow. 2018 had some pretty neat and creative cinematic sequences worth singling out.

In the age of the Marvel super-blockbuster, we have not just one but two post-credits scenes on here, but also two clever and unique opening scenes to go nicely with them. The overall balance this year is more in favour of uplifting, funny and/or cool over stressful or scary – I don’t know how much of that can be attributed to my taste and how much is related to the kinds of movies that came out this year with hype or interest around them. Anyway, here’s the (spoiler-filled) list.

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VR BEST OF 2018 DISCLAIMER

This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s odd, but let’s have a beer. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.

Big spoilers ahead!

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10. Opening Titles – Upgrade

It’s been a while since I was genuinely struck by the opening title sequence of a movie enough to remember the sequence itself. Before even beginning to get into its own wonderful groove, Upgrade made me do just that. We see one faded, scan-line-obscured logo, followed by the Blumhouse mark, then cut to a black screen. A small blip of light widens to fill the frame, then the line splits and contorts to become a waveform matching the disembodied, cold female voice filling the speakers. With just a hint of oh-so-foreshadowing superiority to her words, the obvious AI says “OTL Releasing Presents”. Now the waveform fills the whole screen and gains a third dimension as the camera pans away slightly, in time for her to continue, “A BH Production…” It’s then that it becomes obvious – She is reading out what every other movie simply places onscreen or just avoids. As the waveform gains more and more complexity, it splits and falls away in the middle so the camera can enter the resulting chasm, just as the AI says – tauntingly – “Upgrade”.

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