LUCA (2021)

Possibly the lightest, summeriest Pixar film to date — one that’s thankfully not interested in heavy emotional subject matter but would rather just present a nice, simple story and it delivers a delight.

Two young sea monsters sneak up on land to win a triathalon so they can buy a Vespa. Friendships are formed, hijinx ensue.

The visuals take on a sort of extremely advanced claymation quality, complimented by saturated colours and an expressive animation style.

Charm in spades, it’s a warm and easy film that unfortunately might end up overlooked due to skipping a theatrical release in favour of jumping straight to Disney+.

Don’t sleep on it though, it’s great.

RAYA & THE LAST DRAGON (2021)

Solid family adventure film with the obligatory gorgeous Disney Animated visuals.

At what point do we stop commenting on how pretty each new one is, given that the next one will inevitably somehow manage to surpass it? Nonetheless, design aesthetics are fantastic here, and unique among their animated collection.

It’s a Disney princess film with a SouthEast Asian setting, no love interests and a vaguely post-apocalyptic bent.

Potentially questionable moral for young children about trusting untrustworthy people, but overall it’s pretty great.

Recommended.

ONE CUT OF THE DEAD // Kamera wo tomeru na! (2017)

An instant modern classic.

An indie film crew shoots a low budget, single-take film in a cursed power station and zombies show up.

The camera never cuts! shouts the director.

For anyone with even a passing interest in filmmaking this is an absolute gem, and keeps revealing layer upon layer of itself as the crew dies off and the production threatens to collapse.

A hilarious disaster.

Just make sure you stay all the way through the credits (both times!).

Highly recommended.

MARE OF EASTTOWN (2021)

A-grade small-town murder-mystery with a great supporting cast, twisty plot reveals and a great lead performance from Kate Winslet.

Honestly, much more is potentially spoilery so if you got through all those hyphens without already skipping over to look up where it’s available for you to watch then maybe this isn’t your genre?

Still, if you’ve never dipped your toe into this specific kind of Broadchurch-y series then this is an excellent, accessible place to start.

Highly recommended.

Bo Burnham: INSIDE (2021)

When this whole pandemic situation started we knew that there was terrible art out there being made about it. Just some really dreadful, insufferably thoughtless bad takes.

But out there too are some diamonds — pieces of creativity that encapsulate and express the time beautifully.

This is the latter. Calling it merely “pandemic art” does a massive disservice to what Burnham has created here. Infact, INSIDE is really the first definitive piece of work from the shitstorm of the last year-and-change that actually feels like a meaningful embodiment of what life has become, and it all takes place in a single room.

Burnham’s comedy had always been brilliantly self-conscious and this is no different, playing big with creative lighting setups and brilliant minimalistic cinematography.

But it also turns against him over the course of a year working on his Netflix special, alone and steadily succumbing to the isolation. And there is familar darkness there.

It’s relatable. Distressing. The results are honest and sincere and uncomfortable, wrapped in dazzling visuals and straining, ragged-edged wit. Oh, and the songs are great.

The experience of the past fourteen months will leave a lasting mark on human collective psyche and culture and many more attempts will be made to express this capsule of time.

Whatever other stories come, INSIDE will rank absolutely among the best of them. The first real masterpiece of its kind.

Highly recommended.

THE DRY (2020)

Small town murder mystery against the backdrop of Australian drought.

A well constucted thriller with solid performances, great cinematography and a permeating hostile atmosphere overlaying the modern case with a unsolved death in the town 25 years earlier.

The dry, dead isolation of inner coastal Australia is on full display, with dusty wide empty expanses and a penetrating, tinderbox feeling of heat and impending ruin. The town has known hardships, and those that live there are stretched thin.

For them, a second tragedy might be the tipping point that finally destroys the community, and Aaron (Eric Bana) returning to town only serves to open old wounds.

Not more to add that wouldn’t verge on spoilers, so if you know this is your genre fare you can’t go wrong with this one.

Recommended.

ARMY OF THE DEAD (2021)

Y’all, Zack Snyder is not a good filmmaker. I’m sorry if this is how you had to find out.

His pacing is awful, his characters are flat, and his one usual exception (that famous eye for dazzling cinematography, usually by filming comic compositions other people designed) is almost entirely absent here.

TL;DR: movie bad, too long, not fun, very boring, do not watch.

Otherwise, FULL SPOILERS AHEAD…

Continue reading “ARMY OF THE DEAD (2021)”

SOUND OF METAL (2019)

A metal/noise drummer suddenly experiences almost total hearing loss and has to deal with a complete upheaval of his nomadic life.

This came in with the 2021 Oscar for best sound design, and for good reason. Never treated like a gimmick, the audio design switches seamless from traditional cinematic mixing to diegetic character perspective to atmospheric sound that many of us would have taken for granted.

Riz Ahmed drops a fantastic performance as Ruben, drawing parallels with the drummer’s heroin addiction and the sudden withdrawal from that which had saved his life once before — music itself.

Comparisons are apt for 2004’s It’s All Gone, Pete Tong (a great mockumentary about a DJ undergoing a similar seachange following the loss of his hearing), but the ultimate trajectory, tone and message of the two stories are vastly different.

A powerful and moving, and at times abrasive, sensory experience. Well recommended.

THE MITCHELLS vs THE MACHINES (2021)

Sony Animation has really been knocking it out of the park lately!

Kinetic, hyperactive and full up with heart, this is the very definition of a modern family film run through a Gen Z TikTok filter and imbued with strong, colourful energy.

Hits all the usual beats of this sort of fare and does so with infectious enthusiasm and personality.

The animation style is brilliant, the voice cast is A-grade, the dog is hysterical.

Recommended.

FOR ALL MANKIND (s01/02)

An alternate history drama where the Russians landed on the moon first, kicking off a prolonged, multi-generational space race of one-upmanship sustained by the wounded pride of the United States.

It’s bloody great.

Moreover, it’s a fascinating exploration of human motivations to greatness and high ambition as well as being a very grounded look at the hardships of space travel and what might have been but only for a few key moments of our own history going slightly one way or another.

Highly recommended.