EUROVISION: Fire Saga Story or whatever (2020)

I’m not gonna spend time drawing anything for this one. It sucks.

Dan Stevens and Rachel McAdams’ charisma are entirely wasted on two hours of unwritten jokes and Will Ferrell improvising badly between occasional bright moments of Eurovision ridiculousness that are neither a love letter to the song contest nor anything approaching a satire.

There’s a good pretense for a film here but this execution is fucking atrocious. Comedy is an extremely generous classification.

Skip it.

THE VAST OF NIGHT (2019)

A nice, simple little scifi thriller with the look and feel of an early Cold War-set episode of STRANGE TALES or THE TWILIGHT ZONE.

Does a great deal with very little, and has some really creative camera work that beautifully describes the distances around a small town somewhere in 1950s America.

Some incredibly long and seamless shots and two extremely charismatic lead performances, but to say anything of the plot would be to ruin the tone and the expectation it so wonderfully builds with steady, thoughtful pace. Could have perhaps gone a little further with some of its more creative reaches to really elevate itself it greatness, but I’m not going to hold that against it since restraint stops it tipping over into gimmicky and helps it feel authentic.

Recommended — don’t read anything up about it!

REVIEW SPECTACULAR 7: Revenge of the Medium Movies

Every once in a while I remember a bunch of films that I’ve recently watched which didn’t leave enough of an impression to want to paint them, so I compile them into a single post. This is one of those posts:

GUNS AKIMBO
BLOODSHOT
JUMANJI 2
DOLITTLE
DOLEMITE IS MY NAME
FANTASTIC BEASTS
A WRINKLE IN TIME
WRECK IT RAPLH 2
RAMPAGE

Continue reading “REVIEW SPECTACULAR 7: Revenge of the Medium Movies”

THE FAREWELL (2019)

A Chinese-American family returns home to attend a cousin’s wedding, except the wedding is fake and the family are really gathering to say goodbye to their grandmother whom they haven’t told is dying.

Awkwafina should have received more than just the hushed critical attention she got for this — she really anchors the perspective of an outsider watching a familiar yet alien culture navigate a complex situation, and does so with gravity and a genuine, moving charisma.

Each of the family members offers some insight into the clash of culture between East and West, but seldom do we really get to see that conflict from the modern Chinese perspective and what their own misconceptions of Western culture are like, especially regarding something as universal as a death in the family.

Deserves all the praise. It’s a wonderful film, highly recommended.

PAIN & GLORY // DOLOR Y GLORIA (2019)

I’m starting to think this Antonio Banderas guy might have a bright future ahead of him.

This only really lost attention last year because it was up against the fantastic PARASITE and PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE — it’s a warm, understated and craftsmanly slice of film with a mesmerising lead performance and a mellow, retrospective tone to it.

As much a meditation on a long life of storytelling as it is a story within a story of itself. Doesn’t have the dazzle of its rivals but isn’t aiming for that sort of thing, and is no less a beautiful film.

Recommended.

LITTLE MONSTERS (2019)

An Australian horror comedy quite unlike anything else — you’d be forgiven in the first half hour for thinking you were in for a sort of quirky dramedy or even a romcom.

And then there are zombies. And suddenly this has become a seige movie with a bunch of five year olds trapped in the gift shop of a petting zoo slash minigolf attraction along with their teacher, a television personality and a failed musician.

Has a lot of heart, a surprising amount of gore, an against-type appearance from Josh Gad and an effortlessly charming Lupita Nyong’o.

Shame the Aussie industry is so underfunded and sidelined on the international stage, stuff like this deserves as much attention as any of the more mediocre comedies sneezing out of Hollywood a few times a year.

It’s on streaming services now, if you can find it I’d recommend giving it a go.

PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE (2019)

Seldom does a film become a painting, not simply for its impeccable framing of a scene or the composition of its lighting and colours, but really truly understanding a medium outside of itself and existing purely in service of embodying what it is to take time in each stroke, to trap emotion and the totality of a person in an image frozen in time and to yet be utterly alive.

PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE does this, setting out and utterly succeeding to capture within itself that which is beautiful and mythic and eternal, human and bittersweet and fleeting in the gaze of the artist.

A haunting transient moment of a story within a story and a wonderful film.

ONWARD (2020)

Somewhere around the middle of the Pixars — not as stellar as COCO or even the underrated RATATOUILLE, but comes back in the third act with an unexpected final stretch that puts it above, say, the similarly medium MONSTERS UNIVERSITY or BRAVE.

Feels like a lot of time was spent worldbuilding but then it sort of half-asses doing anything really creative or interesting with the pretense. Whereas something like WALL-E feels rich and vibrant with barely a line of dialogue to drive it, there’s a missed mark in an inconsistency to the logic of the world of ONWARD that feels flat and unremarkable despite its gorgeous design.

Not bad, just suffers from the absurdly high expectations that Pixar fare tends to generate.

BOOKSMART (2019)

One of the best highschool movies ever.

I’m an entire highschool graduate’s lifetime removed from that part of my life now, but this is such a well executed, funny, sincere comedy that I was flashed back to that long gone headspace of hormones and excitement for the next phase of adulthood.

The broad strokes are thus: two best friends, on the eve of their graduation, realise that they’ve spent their whole time being acadamic at the expense of almost anything else and so make a pact to go to the big party at the popular kid’s house and get loose. Hijinks ensue.

So much of the humour comes from an unbridled kind of shameless loving and supportive friendship at the heart — it’s really easy to fall on easy beats of teenagers being awful and cruel and crude so it’s great to be taken on a ride that isn’t mean-spirited and doesn’t punch down while still being hilarious (see also: BLOCKERS).

It’s well written, light and fun. Worth your time.