Posts by Travis:
When you have the likes of Oscar Isaac, Ben Affleck, Garret Hedlund, Charlie Hunnam, and Pedro Pascal headlining a film you would expect nothing but the best but sadly, with Triple Frontier, you get nowhere near it. Big name casts mean nothing.
Triple Frontier explores the actions and consequences of five ex-military men as they plan and execute a heist in the Amazon jungle. It’s not clear what type of film it really wants to be – is it an action film? A thriller? An adventure film? I really don’t know. There is a lot of walking, I know that. Maybe it’s a cross between Heat, The Losers, and The Lord of the Rings.
There is not a whole lot to cover here. The directing is fine, the action sequences are great, although there is really only one – the heist itself, there are a couple other small shoot outs and a car chase, but they don’t last long. The cast is good, they are all seasoned professionals and they don’t put a foot wrong. None of it is worth discussing either way.
What is wrong with Triple Frontier is its ability to give us characters we care about. The five war veterans played by the aforementioned five actors are characters we know not nearly enough to make us care about them. Santiago Garcia (Oscar Isaac) consults with South American police forces and militaries and has a bad neck and knees. Tom Davis (Ben Affleck) sells real estate and is going through a nasty divorce, he also struggles to pay bills. William Miller (Charlie Hunnam) is a public speaker at military bases to help other vets understand how hard and dangerous it can be readjusting to civilian life. Ben Miller (Garret Hedlund) is a boxer – not a great one. Francisco Morales (Pedro Pascal) and his partner just had a baby, and he’s lost his pilot’s licence due to cocaine use. Drugs, financial issues and sore knees are everyday problems that everyday people experience – I really struggled to see any reason that I needed to cheer for these guys while they commit murder and theft to make their own lives easier.
Columbia will also benefit from the heist as it will remove drug king pin Gabriel Lorea (Reynaldo Gallegos) from power, of which he holds in spades. The only character who is someone we could possibly care about is Yovanna, played by Adria Arjona. She is an employee of the drug-lord Yovanna is also Santiago’s lover and is trying hard to convince him to get rid of Lorea. She is the only one truly concerned for her country and is between a rock and a hard place as being a part of the heist is the only way she can help bring Lorea down, even if it means she will be hunted.
The heist is a success, but the getaway plan is where things go really awry, which presents the next issue. We’re subjected to watching this group of guys we don’t care about sit on a helicopter for some an amount of time, and then walk through jungles and over mountains with $200 odd million in bags (that’s a lot of bags by the way). The waiting game becomes a complete bore as the tension of the heist is over, and the uninteresting characters don’t make the tedium any easier. At one point a donkey falls off of a cliff to its demise and I sort of hoped that everything and everyone else would too so it could end. The epitome of the boredom comes when we sit there watching the team pass bag after bag to each other, moving so slowly that even a snail could overtake them. Maybe the film is trying to showcase determination and commitment. If that is the case, then maybe I could make 125-minute film about people determined to sit through this one.
Director: J.C. Chandor
Cast: Oscar Isaac, Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam
Writers: Mark Boal, J.C. Chandor
Bored. That’s what I was feeling roughly half-way through Next of Kin. But, as it wore on, it surprisingly began to demand my attention, and by the end, I was completely engaged. Next of Kin revolves around Linda (Jacki Kerin), who receives, after her mother’s death, a rest home for elderly people. After a few days of living in the old building, Linda comes to realise that she and the other residents are not alone. There is some kind of presence in the place – and it is not a good one. She begins to investigate the history of the rest home and along with her boyfriend Barney (John Jarrett) they try to find the truth.
In the beginning, Linda is on her way to the rest home to take control of it after her mothers passing. She hasn’t visited it for a long time, and for the better part of the first half of the film Linda is kept busy catching up with people, conversing, reigniting old flames. There’s nothing exceptionally wrong with it, it’s just that the delivery is a bit plain. Yes, it’s great to build up characters from a narrative point of view, but when the audience is expecting them to die it shouldn’t really drag the story to a crawl to get to those deaths.
Horror films should be horrifying. For instance, in the film, an elderly resident goes to step into a bath. He cannot quite see through the wall of steam created by the hot water, and when his foot enters the water, he steps onto another one of the residents who appears to have drowned. The lack of tension or dramatic score took away any possible horrific build up, so even though I knew something was going to happen, there was nothing particularly horrifying about it. It’s just an old, bloated dead guy floating to the surface of a bath. The old man that finds the body doesn’t even shriek or cry out.
However, once Linda realises there is a presence in the house, events begin to unfold that make Next of Kin more interesting. I began to suspect other characters of being the antagonist, I wanted to watch and see what happened; I was intrigued and engaged. It took a little too long to get to that point, but once I did, I was happy. Unfortunately, the key moments where maybe I could have experienced a fright were still a touch underdone. The sound really isn’t quite right, there is no screaming, or yelling, even when someone gets stabbed right in the eye. I expected a terrifying yelp, but nothing – there is a lot that could be improved upon. Luckily however, director Tony Williams does enough in the second half of the film to redeem the first.
Jacki Kerin is quite good as Linda. She embodies innocence and fear in her performance in a quite believable manner. John Jarrett also puts on a good show as Barney, the caring and sincere boyfriend who’s willing to help whenever he can.
But at the end, Next of Kin is the kind of film that had all the right ideas but couldn’t quite execute them all well enough to create a thoroughly enjoyable film. It’s only just saved by a solid second half. One thing is sure. In the age remakes, rewrites and ‘based on’s’ – this is one film that could do with being remade. A few more scares in the first half, a bigger budget and you’d be looking a fantastically scary film.
Blu Ray Special Features
The extended Not Quite Hollywood interviews with John Jarret and Tony Williams provide a great insight into the film and film making in general. They are quite interesting. The theatrical trailer is also great, even if it focuses on the second half of the film. There is a 2018 location visit which is unfortunately uninteresting. It would have been great to have an extended tour of the property and hear about specific shooting locations, why they used that spot etc but it appears to be just drone footage.
Director: Tony Williams
Cast: Jacki Kerin, John Jarrat, Tommy Dysart
Writers: Michael Heath, Tony Williams
Alita: Battle Angel centres around a 300+ year old nameless cyborg (Rosa Salazar) that Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) finds in a scrap heap and repairs. The cyborg, who decides after Dr. Ido’s suggestion, that she will call herself Alita, has amnesia, and together with Dr. Ido and her new friend Hugo (Keean Johnson), she must discover the world around her and learn about herself and discover her purpose. As she begins to understand who she is, enemies come out of the woodwork and she must fight to survive.
I’ve been excited for this film since early on in the production cycle. The combination of James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez was surely never going to fail, yet even with a $200,000,000 budget it really hasn’t flourished either. It’s not that Alita: Battle Angel is a bad film, it just isn’t the great one you’d expect from such a duo, or such a budget. It certainly isn’t the must-see blockbuster we were promised after years of talk (if you frequent movie forums and websites) and weeks of advertising.
Rosa Salazar is fine as Alita, giving a performance that’s a combination of both motion capture and voice acting, with the actual character being CGI. Probably my favourite part of the film was not the fighting, which normally action sequences are my bread and butter, but in the first act when Alita is freshly repaired, seeing things for the first time, hearing things, learning things, even tasting things. Though I am not sure why a cyborg needs to eat? Where does she number two from? During this period the we see that Alita is curious, she is competitive, she is wonderous – it really was great to see.
Things go downhill when she meets Hugo, and as their relationship develops, the pair fall in love and the clichés begin to hit us one by one. Dr Ido’s relationship with Alita is also frustrating at times, Christoph Waltz gives an acceptable performance, but the character is quite bland and predictable. He is using Alita to replace his long dead daughter, he is over protective etc. etc. you know how it goes. Jennifer Connelly also makes an appearance as Chiren, Ido’s ex-wife and mother of their dead child. Her character is boring and supposedly selfish, but again the cliché’s hit and the expected happens.
Aside from Alita herself, there are only three characters of any real note, and they are all bad guys. Ed Skrein as the pretty boy “hunter warrior” Zapan is great. He’s so up himself and Skrein delivers this beautifully. Jackie Earle Haley as Grewishka is also great, he is evil to the core – so much so, he squishes a little puppy dog. Finally, the best performer of the lot by far was Mahershala Ali as Vector (cool name, too), this guy is going from strength to strength in his career with Green Book and Moonlight, and now this – although I’ll always remember him as being credited as Mahershalalhashbaz Ali from the B-Grade TV show Threat Matrix.
One thing that the 200-million-dollar budget did allow for was great special effects, but I think we all expected this. It all looks great and well-polished. The action scenes were also great but realistically, we’ve seen it all before in any big budget action blockbuster- think Terminator, Transformers, or the Marvel and DC output. It’s all fast-paced CGI action. However, the worst part of the film were some of the one liners. After one particular fight scene where Alita gets assistance from Jeff Fahey in the form of hunter warrior McTeague and his cyborg dogs, McTeague utters “he wasn’t a dog lover, I hate that”. It was a terrible line, but nothing topped when Hugo’s friend (while talking about Alita) says “She was the enemy at one point” and another replies “300 years ago, get over it”. The tone and style in which it was said (to a person of colour) sounded as if it was written by a far-right Trump supporter or in Australian context, a far-right Pauline Hanson supporter. The other really crappy part was that the bounty hunters were called “hunter warriors” in the first place, it just sounds so bad. It’s on par with Shane Black calling the armour seen at the end of The Predator the “Predator Killer”.
The fast pace helped with the enjoyment of the well-choreographed fight sequences. Even though I was frequently frustrated, I didn’t find myself bored and I only took my eyes off of the screen a few times to write notes. Despite the violent comics the film is based on, the film is not very bloody though, obviously when your dealing with primarily with cyborgs, there is not a lot of blood, and even when a kid is sliced in half, there really isn’t much gore at all. I felt this was a large issue, taking the dark, bloody edginess away and replacing with a polished, clean look blended with a teenager love story feel in the vein of Twilight.
In the end, Alita: Battle Angel is an ambitious attempt to convert a story from one medium to another that sadly doesn’t quite manage to pull it off. Using material from several of the comics it seems to blur into a bunch of clichés that are just plain old boring. Luckily it has great pacing and action to help keep it interesting with some cool villains to keep you interested and entertained.
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Cast: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Mahershala Ali
Writers: James Cameron, Laeta Kalogridis, Robert Rodriguez, (Based on the graphic novel series ‘Gunnm’ by Yukito Kishiro)
Steve Bisley. A name I would generally associate with only Water Rats. Maybe, just maybe I might think of Mad Max or Red Hill. But generally, if you said to me, “remember Steve Bisley”? I would reply with, “the guy from Water Rats”? But no more. I will no longer utter Bisley’s name as if it does not belong up there on the Australian actors pedestal with his previous Mad Max co-star Mel Gibson or Crowe, Jackman, Kidman or Blanchett. You see, I recently watched a film in which Steve Bisley was the star – The Chain Reaction (1980) – and it was glorious.
The Chain Reaction follows Larry (Bisley) and Carmel (Arna-Maria Winchester) as they try to help Heinrich (Ross Thompson), a man who they discover one night, who unknown to them, has been infected by radiation poisoning. Their efforts to save Heinrich, however, are heavily thwarted by Grey (Ralph Cotterill), a man who is attempting to cover up the corporate accident that poisoned Heinrich in the first place, as well as the widened effects it will have on the general public.
Hailing from the year 1980 it’s easy to confuse The Chain Reaction for a low budget B-grade movie that isn’t really worthy of a second look while you’re perusing the DVD section at JB Hi-Fi but I can assure you, it certainly is worth a look. Sure, it’s got some dodgy sound affects – the lightning sounds like ripping paper – and Bisley’s pants are so tight that it makes you think they could only afford costumes from the kids section at Trims. I imagine that if Jay and Silent Bob watched this movie that Jay would be quick to point out the trouser snake. Also keep an eye out for a young Mel Gibson, Frankie J. Holden and Kym Gyngell.
Bisley, as Larry, is perfection. An everyday average Joe that’s been sucked into a bad situation he can’t get out of. He portrayed the Aussie larrikin who refuses to get pushed around like no other could and it was awesome. While under arrest, a police officer who’s trying to drive his sick Holden Ute asks if ‘the car even goes’, to which Larry replies ‘into orbit mate’ with perfect sarcasm. When Gray asks him a vague question he replies with robustness ‘ don’t understand your Jargon mister’. It rolled off his tongue with all of the might of an A-list Hollywood actor (I literally used the line the next day at work) but sadly, Steve never really experienced Hollywood. I’m not saying that Bisley hasn’t enjoyed a long and well received career that he himself would be surely proud of. What I am saying, is that Hollywood has missed out – but for all I know, Hollywood came knocking and Steve turned it down in favour of sticking to Australian productions.
Arna-Maria Winchester as Carmel is also quality. She is tough and rigid and is the perfect match for Larry’s personality. Carmel is also a nurse and shows great care in taking care of Heinrich – standing up for him when in the face of danger after Gray has taken over their cabin. Ross Thompson as Heinrich is competent at best, he isn’t the best performer in the film, but certainly isn’t the worst. His struggles to remember what has happened (due to the short term amnesia he suffers after a head injury) are sometimes frustrating but he does manage to keep you engaged in the character. Ralph Cotterill is uncompromising as Gray, he is a methodical killer with what seems to be a never ending production line of bad guys. If only he had a pack of Tim Tams. There is also a suave performance from Hugh Keays-Byrne as Eagle.
The car chases and stunts were also great. Larry’s modified Holden 1-tonner goes like a bat out of hell, with George Miller (Mad Max), taking care of stunt co-ordination after being unavailable to direct full-time due to his already busy schedule. Ian Barry however, who wrote and directed this film – his first feature – did a great job. Its schlocky here, looks cheap there, but it’s great fun. He did so well that when the film sold at Cannes Film Festival, Producer David Elfick said “it could have been sold three times over in every territory in the world”. After the sale the film immediately started to make a profit – if that doesn’t tell you it is worth a look, then nothing will.
Finally, I NEED to talk about the already well noted soundtrack. Back when it was released the soundtrack was so well thought of it was even advertised on the movie poster in bold writing. You don’t see that too often these days. The electronic sound track is great, it compels itself into the film. The original music by Andrew Thomas Wilson was phenomenal. Remember, this film is just under 40 years old, it is nothing like what we see today, and personally, it’s part of what made seeing it the first time so special.
But it’s not just the film you need to watch. The new Blu-Ray release from Umbrella Films includes some very cool special features.
To start with there are some deleted scenes. They don’t really add a whole lot to the essence of the film but there is more of Bisley acting out against authority and seeing more of his larrikin Larry character so it is worth giving them a look. There are also a few trailers and a TV spot. The TV spot is awesome, if the same TV spot came out today it would certainly garner more than a few YouTube hits. It was exciting and it made me want to watch the film (again).
There is also a new featurette – Thrills and Nuclear Spills which provides some great insight into the making of the film and the extended Not Quite Hollywood interviews with cast and crew are also fascinating. But what is truly worth your time and money is The Spark Obituary featurette. After an introduction from writer/director Ian Barry you’ll stumble across a short film (just over 20 minutes) which will blow your mind. If I was reviewing that by itself, I’d give it 5 out of 5 stars.
The Chain Reaction is a fun ride full of high octane chases and faceless bad guys and keeps you engaged with great stunts and an awesome soundtrack. The film is completely enjoyable and is definitely worth picking up with the new release Blu-Ray full of special features make it all that much sweeter.
Director: Ian Barry
Cast: Steve Bisley, Arna-Maria Winchester, Ross Thompson
Writer: Ian Barry
Frank Grillo stars as Jacob in recent Defiant Screen Entertainment release Reprisal, a bank manager, whom after a bank robbery, begins to try and track down the perpetrator, Gabriel (Jonathon Schaech), alongside his retired cop neighbour James (Bruce Willis). The title ‘Reprisal’ is quite fitting in terms of the story as it’s not just Jacob seeking out revenge on Gabriel, but after Jacob foils one of Gabriel’s robbery attempts, Gabriel also goes after Jacob.
Reprisal is a low quality b-grade action film at best. It certainly tries to bring in an original perspective using the bank manager as a main character, but he more or less becomes a vigilante – a character we’ve all seen before. Jacob does try to go down the legal path of following the suspect and calling the cops, but he fails massively because he fails to advise the police the location where Gabriel is working out of, presumably information that would have largely aided in his capture. Grillo comes through with his career intact as Jacob however, he’s a capable support actor and handles the lead roles in these types of films with aplomb. I’d like to see him in the lead of a blockbuster though to see how he goes as I’ve followed his career since the first season of Prison Break.
Bruce Willis as James is Willis scraping the bottom of the barrel as he has done for a few years now. His star-power, aside from his iconic roles as David Dunn and John McClane, seems to have fizzled out as he takes on more and movie b-grade movie roles. After watching the special features and doing some reading on Willis’s 2010 effort Cop Out, helmed by Kevin Smith, I learnt that Willis is incredibly difficult to work with. I wonder if this is a factor, as cast and crew seem to be less and less inclined to take shit from bigger actors. We all remember when Christian Bale was forced to apologise after inappropriately having a go at a cast member on set of Terminator: Salvation.
Schaech’s output as Gabriel is fine, his character is angry as the treatment of his father from the American government and Schaech shows this anger with ease. I was a little taken aback by how angry how he seemed until his motivation was revealed. His voice is deep and raspy, lines feel almost forced – you can feel his irritation and frustration easily.
Experienced B-grade director Brian A. Miller makes the least of this latest script from novice screenwriter Bryce Hammons. The direction from Miller and editing from Ryan Dufrene is cringeworthily in parts. Moments where the camera blurs, which don’t fit in with the film, fast cuts that make no sense. The scene where we are introduced to James is one of the worst I’ve seen put on film. Jacob leaves his house and yells out to James who’s in his back yard working out. It cuts to Willis’s face where he gives the camera one of the most intense looks ever put to film, it changes angles again and then without Bruce uttering a sentence cuts back to Jacob walking away. Then all of a sudden James replies, the sentence which was clearly added in later, sounds completely out of place and sets the stage for what we are about to witness. In all honesty the idea had potential to be a solid R-rated thriller but Scheach’s character is never truly let off of his leash, his anger never really explored and the lengths both Gabriel and Jacob would be willing to go to is never really established.
Reprisal is a B-grade film that only Grillo and Schaech can be proud off. Their efforts in this film will go unrewarded due to how badly it is put together – I watched the making of featurette on the blu-ray and it was far more interesting than the film itself. Unless you’re a die-hard Grillo or Schaech film, don’t stress if you miss this one. If it weren’t for those two performers this would be a zero rating.
Director: Brian A. Miller
Cast: Frank Grillo, Bruce Willis, Johnathon Schaech
Writer: Bryce Hammons
Netflix have a seemingly unending roll of original films and TV series releasing these days. Almost like whenever one of their content buyers goes to Costco they come back with a bulk pack of new shows or movies, the 3 for $10 special.
Close stars Noomi Rapace as Sam Carlson, a terrorism expert whom is now a bodyguard.. Rapace is someone whom I believe could be one of the greatest female action stars of all time by the time her career ends. Sam is sent to protect spiteful, thoughtless and ignorant teen Zoe Tanner (Sophie Nelisse) while she is on holiday in Morocco. Much to the dislike of her step mother, Rima (Indria Varma), Zoe is the beneficiary to her late fathers business. While on holiday, the place she is staying is raided, forcing Sam and Zoe go on the run.
The film is no masterpiece, but it is certainly entertaining. Written by Vicky Jewson and Rupert Whitaker, with Vicky Jewson taking the directors seat it contains some great fun action scenes. It’s great to see another female director making an action film, and hopefully Jewson can get more under her belt after this. Rapace shines in any action scene and this was no exception, she is a competent actress and the right role will pay excellent dividends to her career. While the leading part in the millennium series has done her wonders and parts in American films, Sherlock Holmes: A game of shadows, Prometheus and The Drop also haven’t hurt she is still yet to find the part that will make her a household name.
As Carlson, Rapace comes through with flying colours. She is tough, rigid, and resilient and kicks ass. There is a scene in a fishing vessels fish tank which is particularly cool. It’s a great scene which highlights Carlson ability to stay calm, also having a school of fish dash around the characters fighting makes it more intense. While she won’t garner any awards nominations for this role, she hits the right notes and it is very entertaining to watch.
Sophie Nelisse’s Zoe is the annoying brat in need of life lessons, maturing and a decent role model and Nelisse pulls out all the stops. She is arrogant and a complete pain, doing almost everything to make Carlson want to abandon her post, but Carlson never does. With all the constant accusations from Zoe that Carlson is going to abandon her, you wouldn’t blame her if she did. Zoe’s mother in law Zima, played by Indria Varma (Game of Thrones). Zima is a cold woman and is absolutely disgusted by the fact that Zoe was left the company by her late husband. Varma plays the role very convincingly, she’s cold, conniving and malicious clearly showing that she has only her own best interests at heart.
I complain a lot about action films being too complicated these days but Close brings it back to simple – simple story, simple action and simple characters. There’s no big twists, no tight turns – it’s just a good story with some good action. The action isn’t exactly non-stop though, there are some slow moments but not enough to make it boring, which a plus.
So if you’re keen for a low key action flick to keep you entertained for ninety minutes then grab a bag of popcorn or some chips and give Close a shot. Rapace is a great performer and the action won’t disappoint.
Director: Vicky Jewson
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Olivia Jewson, Indria Varma
Writers: Vicky Jewson, Rupert Whitaker
Mads Mikkelsen stars as Duncan Vizla, aka The Black Kaiser, in the latest offering from Jonas Åkerlund – Polar. Based on the Dark Horse graphic novel “Polar: Came From the Cold”, this is Åkerlund’s fifth feature film, after Spun, Horseman, Small Apartments and another recent release – Lords of Chaos.
Polar focuses on Vizla’s retirement from being an assassin. He’s almost 50, and wants to relax and enjoy what life he has left, however, his boss – Mr. Blut (Matt Lucas of Little Britain fame) – does not want to pay him what he is owed and sends some of his younger assassins to take him out. Vanessa Hudgens is the Black Kaiser’s neighbour, Camille, whom also gets dragged into the action, with Vikings’ Katheryn Winnick on board as Mr. Blut’s trusted but not often ignored advisor.
In the film, Mikkelsen (or maybe it’s Vizla) is a bit of a bore as Duncan Vizla. This isn’t because he gives a bad performance, it’s because Vizla is the opposite of the rest of the film. Polar is over the top and Vizla is a cold, calm and calculating assassin. I have not read the comic so I am unsure if this is how Vizla is supposed to be written but he seems to be a bit out of place here. In the right film, the character would actually be great. Having said that, there is a hilarious scene where he tries to teach a bunch of school kids a thing or two about the world at the behest of his neighbour Camille. His world is completely different to theirs, and what he has to say has no place in a school whatsoever.
Hudgens portrayal of Camille is well done. She is similar to Vizla in the energy she provides to the film, only it’s clear that her character is in some way suffering from some sort of psychological pain. Knowing and feeling her pain, from the way Camille jumps at sudden noises and movements, Hudgens gives the best and most honest performance in the film. Winnick is good value as Vivian, she is commanding and direct but also playful, while Matt Lucas a Mr. Blut really isn’t providing anything he didn’t in Little Britain – except for the blood and torture.
Polar is (mostly) a fast paced action film with some great action for you to sink your teeth into. Epic shootouts that end up with Duncan laying naked in the snow with a sniper rifle ready to take out his would-be killers are fun to watch and they’re also super gory but, on some level, it doesn’t deliver what it’s trying to. It seems to be trying to offer this explosive energy that makes the film more fun, but the main character is a dull, ageing killer for hire who had enough. These two things really clash and it effects the dynamic of the film.
On top of this, the team of assassins that are used to hunt Duncan down are annoying and make no sense. Duncan is a complete professional – smart, skilled and ruthless, and while the younger assassins have age on their side, as well as being ruthless, they seem to be unprepared in most situations. They’re completely crazy, which is a part of the high energy that Åkerlund seems intent on trying to present, but ultimately he fails to deliver it. There are also a lot of torture scenes in the film, it isn’t for the faint of heart, but the scenes themselves are done well. Mr. Blut is completely callous in the way he goes about it. Day after day of cuts, punches and whacks to his victim, you almost start to feel it yourself.
Keep an eye out for Johnny Knoxville as well, his character is funny, full of energy but in the end just can’t seem to keep it up – much like Polar itself. While it doesn’t quite deliver in the way it seems to intended to, the action scenes are great fun and how fast paced it is does make up for it just enough for Polar to be enjoyable.
Director: Jonas Åkerlund
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Vanessa Hudgens, Matt Lucas
Writer: Jayson Rothwell, (based on a graphic novel by Victor Santos)
Glass, the latest release from M. Night Shyamalan follows on from Unbreakable and Split, with evil mastermind Elijah Price (Samual L. Jackson) pitting David Dunn (Bruce Willis) against Kevin Crumb (James McAvoy) while they are being studied at a psychiatric facility. Elijah, or Mr. Glass as he likes to be known, has a theory that superheroes exist, that the comic books of the world are an exaggeration from things that have happened in real life. He has spent his life trying to prove this theory through the act of murdering thousands (maybe even, hundreds of thousands) of people and seeing if there are any survivors.
In Unbreakable, he finds his prized survivor, his hero – David Dunn, or as his fans have settled with in Glass – The Overseer. David doesn’t believe in superheroes, even after he is able to achieve feats that are seemingly unachievable by the average Joe. He just knows he is different, and that he can help people. His son however, who is the average Joe or Joseph to be particular, loves the idea that his father is immortal. Being 19 years apart, Joseph is able to be played by Spencer Treat Clark, in both Unbreakable and Glass – as a child and as an adult, which is pretty cool. The finale of Unbreakable is extremely unexciting. Dunn enters Elijah’s comic book store to find out that Elijah is responsible for a multitude of incidents causing mass deaths. He walks away for a written conclusion to pop up on the screen. It is bitterly disappointing. Having said that, the tension on Unbreakable is great, M. Night Shyamalan is a master offering up intelligent films with unforeseen, even unthinkable twists.
Split sets the stage for Kevin (James McAvoy), with David Dunn only appearing for a moment, and Elijah not at all. It’s Kevin’s multiple personalities, whom all act in preparation for the arrival of The Beast, Kevin’s darkest, and most ravenous personality – one who also possesses super strength. The Beast arrives to greet – or maim – the girls that the other personalities had previously kidnapped. Among them is Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy), whom the beast manages to identify with, realising that she suffers from the same pain that Kevin does and ultimately, after a lot of running and wall crawling, lets her go. Split was a great film, full of tension, and a great performance from James McAvoy. He was able to breeze through characters at will and it was amazing to watch. The character of Kevin was conceived while Shyamalan was writing the script of Unbreakable but opted to not include him, as he could not make it work inside the limits of one movie. So Unbreakable was made, 16 years later came Split and it all set the scene, 19 years on, for Glass.
Unfortunately, before Glass started, I was forced to sit through a stupid as hell Vodafone commercial trying to convince me that Steve Smith was gutsy, talking about making up for his misdeeds. If he was gutsy, he would’ve stood up to Warner’s plan to begin with and now Australian Cricket s doomed. Good one Steve, like that will ever make me sign up to Vodafone. After the ad there were a few trailers and then the lights dimmed. I was excited.
The film opens with a save from The Overseer. Dunn now has his own security business with his son, Joseph, and together they investigate crimes and hunt criminals, all the while selling top notch security products to the everyday consumer. Not long after the opening scenes, David Dunn and Kevin Crumb find themselves locked up at a psychiatric facility. They’re now patients of Dr. Ellie Staple, played by Sarah Paulson, and she has three days to try and convince the both of them that they are not superheroes, despite their delusions. The interviews that she conducts are tedious at best. We, as the viewer, already know the truth and it’s frustrating listening to Dr. Staple trying to convince Dunn and Crumb otherwise.
The fact that she specialises in a disorder where people think they are superheroes sounds odd, and again, it is frustrating to listen to. Why try to plainly convince people they’re something they’re not, attempting to explain away their feats and abilities? Why not just hand Dunn a metal bar to bend and prove that he has superhuman strength?
Elijah is also part of the study. But his genius is so great that he is doped out of his head all of the time so unfortunately, Samuel L Jackson is an afterthought for the first half of the film. But nevertheless, Elijah eventually begins to make his presence known and he is a very welcome addition. His onset really starts to get the ball rolling and his grand plans become known shortly after.
Once again, James McAvoy breezes through his characters personalities at will and it is a great performance, the skill it must take to memorize the order in which he needs to use characters must be awesome. Willis, Jackson and Paulson are all adequate in their roles but neither are in the same league as McAvoy is in this film.
Glass showcases Shyamlan’s skills as a director well, and I found it a joy to watch. His use of slow motion was very effective and it complimented the film. Again, Shyamalan uses twist after twist to keep the film stimulating and as usual, they’re as intelligent and surprising as the next, but, by no means are all of them enjoyable. In fact I think in the future, M. Night Shyamalan’s trilogy will be known as the ‘Chubby Checker’ of films there’s that many twists. In conclusion, Glass is a competent thriller and while the film itself is not great, it is a good close to the trilogy. Or the beginning of another – I guess we’ll see.
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, James McAvoy
Writer: M. Night Shyamalan
So, 2018 is all done and dusted. While I’ve spent a lot of time catching up on old films, I did manage to watch a few new films throughout the year. I feel pretty strongly about a few films from 2018, with a couple really surprising me. With that in mind, here are my top five films for 2018.
Coming in at number five is Brothers’ Nest. A subtle, quiet thriller that really is quite amazing. Written by Jaime Browne (with additional material from Chris Pahlow), the film centres on two brothers – Terry (Shane Jacobson) and Jeff (Clayton Jacobson – also director) who plan on murdering their father-in-law Rodger (Kim Gyngell) because they believe that he will sell off their childhood home after their ill mother (Lynette Curran) passes.
This is a slow burn film. As Terry and Jeff chat about life as they wait for Rodger to arrive home, the nerves begin to kick in and stress begins to take over. It is superbly written. The dialogue between the brother’s festers until they can’t keep it together and thing after thing begins to go wrong.
Its great little thriller that is a pleasure to watch.
Number four is Apostle. Apostle is a brutal horror film of the likes I have never seen before. It’s violent and gory, with twists and turns that don’t let up for a moment. The story revolves around Dan Stevens’ character Thomas, who is headed to a middle-of-nowhere island where his sister is being held captive by a religious group – or are they a cult? He is unsure of whether the ransom he intends to pay to release her will see them both freed or both dead so he joins the cult to get a gist of what is actually going on. Michael Sheen leads the cult as Prophet Malcolm and is great in the role. He and Dan Stevens really light it up in this film, as does everyone else. The entire production is a masterpiece of the horror genre.
Writer/Director Gareth Evans (The Raid and The Raid 2) goes over and above with this film. It is a feast for the eyes, visually enthralling from beginning to end – I started watching it at 2am and didn’t close my eyes once.
Coming in at number three is another Australian Film – Leigh Whannell’s Upgrade. Whannel hasn’t really been the big Hollywood name that he should’ve been. He and James Wan kick-started a new horror genre with their first release – Saw but it was James Wan that has really prospered. With Upgrade, Leigh Whannell, working as writer and director, gives himself every chance to enhance his career.
Upgrade follows Grey Trace, played here by Logan Marshall-Green as he recovers from the murder of his wife and his own injures. A previous client of Grey’s, Eron Keen, offers to give Grey his legs back using an AI implant called STEM. Grey agrees and is given his legs back – and so much more. STEM is capable of overtaking Greys entire body and together they track down the criminals responsible for Grey’s wife’s murder.
Whannell’s writing is masterful, his direction exceptional. Upgrade is a fantastic action film with a simple story and it is delivered with near perfection. If you are a fan of action and you haven’t already seen it – keep your eyes peeled for it.
Second place goes to none other than Mission: Impossible – Fallout. If this film is not in an action film fans top five or ten at the end of the year then something is terribly wrong. I don’t need to go into this film too much here – check out my review for further reading.
For the average film goer you may not be familiar with who directed it (and also wrote it) so I am going to talk about Christopher McQuarrie for a moment. McQuarrie won an Oscar for the screenplay of one of the all-time greatest crime films – The Usual Suspect. He also wrote The Way of the Gun – which is absolutely awesome. It’s a balls to the wall action film that keeps going to the credits. After some hits and misses – Valkyrie, The Tourist, Jack the Giant Slayer, Edge of Tomorrow and The Mummy – it’s clear than when McQuarrie directs Tom Cruise (Jack Reacher, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Mission: Impossible – Fallout), magic happens. None of those films disappoint.
Well we have reached number one and I have to say in the 12 months that I have been reviewing films, if there is one thing I have learnt – it’s that Australian films are not all as average as I used to think they were. Sweet Countrygrabs first place and that puts three of them in my top five. If you read this site, you’ll know that Andrew is extremely passionate about this movie. This is for good reason – the film is an absolute masterpiece. Warwick Thornton has taken a polished script from Steven McGregor and David Tranter and does it an absolute justice.
Sweet Country revolves around Sam (Hamilton Morris), an Aboriginal stockman who kills a whitefulla to protect his family. He and his wife must now go on the run from Sergeant Fletcher (Bryan Brown), who wants to bring Sam to ‘Justice’. Sam Neill tags along as Fred Smith to ensure that Sam doesn’t find an early grave.
It’s an unforgiving and honest film and is well deserving of my number one vote.
That rounds out my top 5 favourite films for the year but a film called The Endless gets and honourable mention. It’s a tripped out film that will keep you guessing till the end. Check it out.
I’m also going to add my three biggest disappointments for the year just for kicks.
The bronze goes to The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. I had no idea about this film aside from having watched the trailer which does not tell you it’s some kind of anthology. So I was getting hyped for this film that had a great ensemble cast and looked utterly hilarious. Not to mention – Tim Blake Nelson!
What I got was a 20 minute short that was utterly hilarious with Tim Blake Nelson, followed by a further five shorts that made me want to pull my eyes out. The acting was great, the visuals were great, but overall – I would’ve preferred to watch paint dry, at least then I could’ve used my imagination.
The silver medal goes to Mile 22. Marky Mark has pumped out some great fun action movies (and some pretty bad ones) and the trailer for this one looked like being nothing other than a high octane action film with a side of nitrous oxide. Director Peter Berg has been pumping out great action films, I have kept an eye on him since adventure film Welcome to the Jungle (which I love – Gato, don’t you speak English?) but Berg really let me down here. Mile 22 was bland, its story was boring, the characters were boring and Wahlberg’s character was one of the worst of all time. He was a complete douche. I wanted him to die. They should have killed him off and Ronda Rousey could have saved the day.
But my absolute biggest disappointment for the year was The Predator. This film was a complete load of crap. I was so hyped to see Shane Black’s version of the Predator, given he’s one of the original stars of Predator and writer/director of one of my favourite films – Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. But rather than a great sci-fi action film with awesome one liners, I got a full blown comedy with a little bit of sci-fi. The sci-fi that was there was crap, with some of the worst dialogue I have ever heard in a film. “You’re one beautiful motherfucker”. Seriously? Way to ruin a classic line. If you liked and appreciated the original Predator, then I highly doubt that you will enjoy this one.
That’s my top five and bottom three films for 2018. I look forward to whatever films 2019 brings!
Rape Revenge movies. Do we need them? From I Spit On Your Grave 1 through 4 to Big Driver to Bound to Vengeance, they seem to be here to stay – and they all have one thing in common. Even straight up revenge films with female leads – Eye for an Eye, The Last House on the Left and The Brave One – have the same common denominator. Male directors. A male telling a female how to feel when she is being raped, abused, beaten and harassed. It doesn’t seem right. A recent online poll suggests that 81% (more than 3 out of 4) of women have experienced some form of sexual harassment, so its likely that any actress in such a role has experienced some form of sexual harassment. It would be like telling a holocaust survivor how to act in a movie about WWII. It just isn’t appropriate. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe there are heaps directed by women, and I just can’t find them.
Writer/Director Coralie Fargeat has done wonders with Revenge. It is a great film by all accounts – but I will get to that later. I want to make one more point. In all the films I’ve seen with a rape scene, they all show it, explicitly. Close ups on crotches, thrusts, bound hands and bloodied bodies. Why? Are we men really that depraved? Realistically one only needs to read about the controversy surrounding Last Tango in Paristo answer that question.
Back to Revenge. It’s a simple film with a basic plot. Jen (Matilda Lutz) goes away with her lover Richard (Kevin Janssens) to a rural desert getaway a few days before Richard’s mates are scheduled to arrive and go on their annual hunt. However, Stan (Vincent Colombe) and Dimitri (Guillaume Bouchède) rock up early and spoil the party – by having a party. After a night of heavy drinking, Richard heads off to run some errands, leaving Jen alone with Stan and Dimitri. Stan thinks he deserves more than the quick lap dance he got the night before amidst a heap of vodkas and decides to take it. He rapes Jen without a second thought while Dimitri swims laps of the pool to help cure his hangover. After Richard gets back, he tries to fix the situation by giving Jen a sum of money and shipping her off – angry at Richard’s classy get-over-it attitude, Jen runs away. The trio of wealthy married men decide to continue on with the hunt but with a different prey in mind. But Jen doesn’t want to give up and from there you get an idea of what goes on.
Revenge isn’t all that different from other films of this nature – where the girl survives her initial torment and fights back. It’s a basic format that makes for good entertainment – although after watching Revenge I now know that the rape scene does not need to be a part of the film. What differs in this film is the quality of the screenplay from Fargeat. It is excellently written. After the rape, Richard tells Jen “it’s hard to resist you”, like some sort of excuse for Stan’s sexual appetite. It rings true to what we hear after a rape in the real world – what was she wearing? She was asking for it! Lines that are heard so often in such instances. Even at the end Richard is still so up himself that it is cringe worthy but still so realistic.
The male ego – will it ever change?
Fargeat’s direction is crisp. Notably, the extreme close-ups of almost seemingly random things. Dimitris mouth while chewing on junk food, an ant struggling to escape dripping blood – while so simple – they also were great analogies for their respective scenes. And when there is violence it is unrelenting and unforgiving – it was excellent – it kept me on my toes. It kept me shocked, unable to look away.
The performances were above your average low budget revenge film. Matilda Lutz was great as the ignorant and fun-loving Jen. She was joyous but oh so vulnerable without ever realising it, making her turn as a revenge seeking survivalist really turn your head. Colombe and Bouchède as Stan and Dimitri are also great as the creepy friends. Colombe’s Stan especially is so desperate for attention from Jen that it is almost sickening, but again, so realistic.
And Kevin Janssens is great as Richard. The alpha male. The leader of the pack. Solving problems and shouting orders like any ‘great’ man would do – only to find that he doesn’t help himself in any way, shape or form throughout the film. In fact, like in many situations where an alpha male takes the reigns – he ignores advice from his betas, that would have helped, a lot. And his confidence is second to none – while never fully having the upper hand at any moment during the film he berates Jen – after all her efforts in surviving, her grit and determination mean nothing to him. “Women always have to put up a fucking fight” he says. Such a perfect line in terms of women social status in the world today. Much like people of colour, women are also still fighting to have themselves heard and to get what from middle-aged wealthy white men? The same attitude Richard has.
Keep an ear out for the cool 80’s electro sound track too, Robin Coudert gets an A+ plus here. It made the film noticeably more enjoyable which for me is a rarity when it comes to the soundtrack. The other part of the film that is crazy and worth noting is the fake blood slip and slide toward the end of the film. It’s so hectic and ridiculous but oh so pleasurable.
Director: Coralie Fargeat
Cast: Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, Kevin Janssens, Vincent Colombe
Writer: Coralie Fargeat