TURNING RED (2022)

It’s great!

An absolute celebration of women, mothers, sisters and friendship — all wrapped in kinetic, vibrant style.

The animation is fun, the story’s emotionally resonant, the soundtrack is a brilliantly pastiche of early 00’s boy bands by Finneas/Billie Eilish.

Bursting with personality, passion, and charm. Well worth your time.

Pixar have been killing it lately. Highly recommended.

THE FRENCH DISPATCH (2021)

Classic Wes Anderson, in the sense that it’s unlike his other films while still being quintessentially a Wes Anderson film.

More a series of loosely connected stories hung on a bookend framing device than a singular narrative. Each section is portrayed with Anderson’s distinctive flair, immaculate set design, quirky characters and deadpan delivery.

The cast is perhaps the most stacked of any of his (which is really saying something), and each of the vignettes comes packaged in black and white with only occasional shots of vibrant colour for impact. Likely as close as he’ll come to doing a full feature in black and white, his shot composition is nonetheless striking even drained of colour.

The set design and staging execution is fantastic, especially in the repeated motif of tracking shots that move from scene to scene, with actors holding pose as though in a still life painting.

Offbeat and weird. If you like Wes Anderson, you won’t be disappointed. If you can’t stand his style or the way he shapes performances, this isn’t likely to change your mind.

Still, very much recommended.

ANTLERS (2021)

Solid creature feature with some excellent practical effects and a unique, intriguing premise, based on this great short story:

A few moments of weird and convenient movie logic keep it back from greatness, but it’s otherwise very well executed and the creature design is awesome.

Well worth a watch if monster movies are your jam.

THE DEAD DON’T DIE (2019)

Kind of pointless?

Great cast, and a director I usually love, but this didn’t do anything for me.

Seems like it’s aiming to be a throwback to old-school classic zombie tropes, but doesn’t bring anything new or interesting to the table. Doesn’t even strike a compelling tone, or wring distinct performances out of anyone.

Plot just sort of meanders from one scene to the next, there’s no apparent stakes, and everything is playing so straight and flat that it almost seems like it’s supposed to be satire?

Impossible to tell what it’s trying to say, in that case.

Dull. Skip it.

THE MATRIX RESURRECTIONS (2021)

Sadly, no good.

Starts out interestingly enough, but the instant it becomes so meta that you expect it to elevate into something wild, it just… stops evolving.

The rest of the (very extensive) runtime is filled with dull exposition and mediocre action. Familiar characters return, with some of them swapped out for younger counterparts (with wobbly in-world explanations) since it seems unlikely Hugo Weaving or Lawrence Fishburne were going to get back into fighting shape for another go around the block.

Action films have come a long way since the original Matrix, and it’s disappointing that there’s nothing here that comes even remotely close. It’s unremarkably shot, and there’s not a single iconic setpiece, which is odd in a franchise that exploded to fame on the back of its iconic setpieces. We all thought, apparently foolishly, that the return of The Matrix meant some grand, mind-bending new evolution of action films again. Hell, Keanu’s still on his A-game with the John Wick franchise.

Instead, Resurrections chooses to go down this strangely self-aware and self-referential path, but then doesn’t really capitalise on the ideas at all. One of the earliest bits of dialogue in the film literally goes: Our parent company, Warner Media, was going to make another Matrix anyway, at least this way we get to do it on our terms.

Kind seems like “on our terms” meant taking everyone’s interest in the franchise out the back and shooting it.

Don’t bother.

DON’T LOOK UP (2021)

Your standard Adam McKay biting satire that’s so uncomfortably close to reality as to hardly qualify as satire.

This time around, it’s a comet headed for Earth with a 100% guarantee of a planet-wide extinction event, and the absolute trainwreck of a circus that ensues from the media parade of misinformation, disinformation, corporate interest and general political fuckery.

It’s frequently infuriating in its accuracy, playing for comedy what could be modern headlines with only a few small tweaks.

If the pandemic hasn’t yet completely soured your appetite for laughing at this sort of thing, then it’s a solid comedy with a stacked cast and a black heart.

Recommended.

ENCANTO (2021)

Simple and charming little story about a family who are granted magical boons on their coming of age day.

Music is unmistakably Lin Manuel Miranda, animation is colourful and lush, characters are fun.

Not quite as intensely charsmatic as this year’s Luca, but is still an easy and incredibly endearing watch, and a wonderful sort of magical fantasy for kids.

Recommended.

SPIDER-MAN: No Way Home (2021)

A brilliant conclusion to the Tom Holland/Jon Watts “Home” trilogy, that is almost impossible to discuss without severe spoilers for the back half of the film.

Best appreciated knowing as little as possible beforehand, but I’ll still keep from spoiler discussion until after the click-through below.

The shortest spoiler-free review is: it’s bloody great, go and see it.

Fundamentally, this is taking MCU Spidey and directly addressing the criticisms levelled at this incarnation (Iron Boy Jr, a lack of Uncle Ben, too many advantages compared to the traditional depiction) and playing hardball with them to set up what may well prove to be the most wonderully accurate cinematic Spider-Man we’ve ever seen. Personally, I’ve always loved this Spider-Man, but to see how they’ve maneuvered the franchise into what it will be going forward is an absurdly impressive feat. Everyone gets their cake.

Some CG is a little wonky, but it’s balanced out by some fantastic Dr Strange sequences (Multiverse of Madness hype!) and wonderful character work. I genuinely believe Tom Holland will win over a lot of his haters with this one.

Look, spoilers are all over the internet, try and get out to see it as soon as you can. Otherwise, I’ve barricaded spoilers behind the jump.

Highly recommended.

SPOILERS BELOW. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Continue reading “SPIDER-MAN: No Way Home (2021)”

THE EMPTY MAN (2020)

A pretty solid horror/mystery/thriller with a creepy pretense, good cinematography and an intriguing plot.

This is one of those ones that benefits from knowing very little going in and just seeing where it takes you.

Not altogether scary, but has its moments all the same. Not sure how strongly it all sticks together by the end, but for a long, slow sort of mystery it does more than enough right to maintain an eerie tone and try for something seldom seen in horror films.

A cult favourite waiting to happen. Worth checking out.

COWBOY BEBOP (2021)

It’s not bad!

Look, it’s missing a bit of the punch and slickness of editing and action that made the anime series so memorable, but the cast is great, the soundtrack bops and it’s mostly a fun, silly scifi romp.

Not without its criticisms, however. The extension of the villain’s story does little to establish him as a credible threat, and some of the VFX look very unfinished. Action can be kind of stitled, which is a shame because it has glimmers of real creativity and excellence that shine through and unfortunately serve to highlight the flaws.

But mostly the characterisations are fun, albiet slightly different takes to the original. If you want slavish dedication to the source material, just rewatch the anime. The prime three (John Cho, Daniella Pineda and Mustafa Shakir) are all totally on point for this interpretation.

My main disappointment was that the show didn’t adhere to the brilliant sylisation of the promotional segments, or at least leaned harder into some kind of hyper-realism to make it pop. That could have been truly special.

If you’re willing to take this on its own terms, it’s a totally serviceable space action adventure.

Good, not great.