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Moulin Rouge! (2001)
All flash, no bang
Moulin Rouge was Baz Luhrmann's big follow up to 1996 film Romeo + Juliet and it was hit commercially and critically. I hated it, especially during its first half. This was a film that seemed like everyone involved was given a bucket of cocaine due to the hectic editing, quick camera work and over-the-top performance. I know that was the point but it didn't mean I have to like it. It was a case of style over substance.
The second half was better because the over the top parts of the film were toned down and there some good songs/performances like Roxanne and Come What May. But the first half was insufferable.
BoJack Horseman (2014)
The best adult animated show
Who would have thought that a show about an anthropomorphic horse set in Hollywood would be one of the most human shows ever made. That was what Raphael Bob-Waksberg managed with BoJack Horseman. It's a show that's hilarious and dramatic, satirical and tragic as we follow BoJack Horseman and his friends through the trials of life. The show could be nilhilistic and the characters could be prophetic about their own destinies *couch* Sarah-Lynn *couch.* BoJack Horseman offers up on the best portraits on issues like mental health and addiction and doesn't sugarcoat anything. This makes the show so relatable and lets it stand out.
Taken 3 (2014)
The Taken series go from bad to worst with the third film being even more forced than the second.
Taken 3 sees Bryan Mills getting framed for murder and has to go on the run whilst trying to prove his innocence. So it is basically The Fugitive made by hacks.
Olivier Megaton is one of the worst action directors currently working in mainstream cinema and proven by his work on the Taken films. His approach for Taken 3 was to make a third rate Bourne knockoff and having his action sequence edited to hell. He doesn't even include anything as incredibly hilarious and stupid as Kim throwing grenades in Istanbul.
Even though Taken 2 was a forced sequel at least it tried to be connected to the first film. Taken 3 had a stock plot that could have been applied to any film. So it can't even satisfy a completist or fan of the previous film (and they have properly seen the film already).
This was a film that was only made for the money and give everyone involved a nice paycheck.
The Rover (2014)
An effective bleak Dystopia film
The Rover is basically what you get if a Mad Max story was told in a more realistic manner.
The Rover is set ten years after an event known as The Collapse and turned the Australian Outback into a lawless landscape where society barely function. Within this world one man (Guy Pearce) goes on a mission of vengeance when his car is stolen by group of bank thieves.
What David Michôd created was a bleak neo-Western where violence dominates. I loved the world that was created in the first third of the film where human life was expendable, drugs dens exist, hiring boys for sex was possible and the army struggles to maintain control. It was great for people who like films like A Clockwork Orange and the first Mad Max film, films where society is collapsing from the bottom.
The Rover does sag in the middle as it turns into a dystopian road trip, not helped by Robert Pattinson's thick Southern American accent. The story is light but it was compelling viewing, especially for people who like bleak films.
Murdered for Being Different (2017)
A Solid BBC Docudrama
Murdered for Being Different was a docudrama about the death of Sophie Lancaster, a young woman who was beaten to death just for being a goth. The docudrama focused on both the relationship between Sophie (Abigail Lawrie) and her boyfriend, Rob (Nico Mirallegro) and the guilt the one witness, Michael (Reiss Jarvis) suffered.
Murdered for Being Different was directed by Paul Andrew Williams, the director of the excellent indie film London to Brighton and gave the Murdered for Being Different an almost documentary look due to the use of handheld cameras. It was well-acted as a project like this needed to be and the storyline about Michael and the criminal investigation was the one that held my interest the most since he had to choose between his friends and doing the right thing.
12 Strong (2018)
A standard patriotic war offering.
12 Strong was the film that was released to capitalise on the reason trend of patriotic war being released for Middle-American audience: like Lone Survivor, 13 Hours and American Sniper. And within that standard 12 Strong isn't as visceral as Lone Survivor, but a lot better American Sniper that tries to celebrate someone who was a vile racist.
12 Strong does have a solid premise, being about the first American Special Forces soldiers to fight in Afghanistan and how they fought with the Northern Alliance. It could easily have self as a modern version of Lawrence of Arabia due to the focus on the relationship between an American soldier and an Afghan warlord who have to work together.
Sadly 12 Strong isn't as epic or memorable as Lawrence of Arabia and was really a standard Hollywood war film that had a decent final battle. It's a film for hooray America crowd.
Terminator Genisys (2015)
A unnecessary entry in the franchise.
At this point the Terminator franchise is a dead horse that continuingly being flogged. Terminator Genisys was the second attempt at a reboot after Terminator Salvation underperformed at the box-office. The aim of Genisys was to give the Terminator series an alternative timeline reboot: like what happened to the Star Trek movie franchise. What Skydance created was a film that lifts scenes and ideas from the first two Terminator film, and the Sarah Connor Chronicles. This is endemic of the lack of story ideas available to the Terminator franchise.
Whilst it is a rehash, Genisys does have some solid action sequences, especially scenes set in the 1980s. It passes the time.
The Rotten Tomatoes rating is a bit harsh considering Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines exist.
Star Trek (1973)
A well written entry in the Star Trek franchise.
Star Trek: The Animated Series is a great example of a show being able overcome a low budget and some bad to voice acting to become an excellent sci-fi show. The Animated Series was a continuity to the original series but has been considered non-canon which was a shame because some of the episodes in the original series. Some of the best were "Yesteryear", "One of Our Planets is Missing", "The Slaver Weapon", "The Jihad" and "The Counter-Clock Incident." These were episodes that handled moral issues, had sci-fi concepts and adventures. Due to the series being animated it didn't have the restrictions of the '60s show because they could actually make aliens and environments look well, alien. It was quite daring for a Saturday Morning Cartoon because it was willing to into darker territory and explore deep issues.
The Disneyfication of a Chinese Legend
The animation of Mulan is what you would expect from Disney adapting a Chinese legend - i.e. being a film that features cute animal sidekicks and kid-friendly humour.
Mulan has a positive message about a girl who wants to save her father's life from being conscripted and ends up becoming the saviour of China. There is the growth of her relationship with her war comrades see her as a liability and ends up loving her. There were powerful moments like when Mulan's father accepts his conscription papers and practices with his sword despite being frail health. "I'll Make a Man out of You" was a great musical number.
But the film does not stand up as well against some of the other films from the Disney Renaissance because it relied more on slapstick humour than some of the other films from the period.
It is an enjoyable but minor offering from the House of Mouse.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)
The worst Star Wars film
The Clone Wars film was basically an extended pilot for a superior TV show. It was a cash-in that didn't deserve to be a theatrical film. The Clone Wars had a small scale story which was Anakin and Ahsoka going on a rescue mission that would have worked better as a 30 minute TV episode instead of a 90-minute film. Nor was its animation worthy of being a theatrical film because it was so blocky - made even worse because the film was directed by Dave Filoni, one of the creators of the excellent Avatar: The Last Airbender. The worst Star Wars film that could easily be ignored.
West Side Story (1961)
An old-fashion style musical
The Bernstein and Sondheim musical West Side Story was a retelling of Romeo and Juliet, moving the setting to 1950s New York. The film version follows Tony (Richard Beymer), a reluctant member of the Jets, a Polish gang, and a Puerto Rican Maria (Natalie Wood), the sister of a rival gang leader.
West Side Story has fantastic dance sequences and had extra themes on racism and immigration. Whilst the action was mostly clean-cut there were some hard-hitting moments in the final act, especially the ending. Wood was a joyful delight as Maria. It was an old-fashioned musical that was a bit too long: the film opens with a 15-minute long dance sequence. One for genre fans.
A great sci-fi series
Humans was a Anglo-American remake of a Swedish series, Real Humans.
Humans is set in an alternative world where androids known as Synths have been invented to do various jobs - from healthcare assistants to factory workers. The series itself follows an ordinary British family who get involved with a group of Synths who have granted self-awareness.
Humans lasted for three seasons and attracted a talented cast like Katherine Parkinson, Tom Goodman-Hill, Gemma Chan, and big Hollywood stars William Hurt and Carrie-Anne Moss. The show was at its best looking at the social impact of Synth on society, looking at existential and ethical issues for people and Synths and what kind of culture could arise.
It's a series worth watching for anyone who's a fan of Black Mirror, X-Men, and A.I. Artificial Intelligence.
Dracula Untold (2014)
A Universal 300 clone
Dracula Untold was meant to be start of the Dark Universe for Universal Studio where they attempt to bring all their monsters together. What they created was a fantasy action film that looks like Universal were trying to make their own version of 300, one nation making an unreasonable demand to another, and has a smaller nation fighting a growing element. The opening was pretty much copying the visual style of that film with a voiceover expanding the history. And for a 300 copy it is one of the better ones because it visual design, especially when Vlad goes into the vampire's cave, and had some solid action sequences. It is a shame that the film went for an R-rating because it would have offered a lot of bloody. For what it is is a passable fantasy romp.
The kitten was cute
Key and Peele have a huge fanbase, but for me the big appeal of Keanu is the little kitten. And Keanu the kitten was a cute little thing and his bits were the best bits for me. Otherwise the film was a fairly average offering. Key and Peele clearly have chemistry considering their working history but most of the jokes were lightweight and the story was pretty standard. The best part was Keanu Reeves' cameo. Sadly underwhelming.
Peter Rabbit (2018)
Beatrix Potter is Rolling in her Grave
Beatrix Potter's books are known for being quaint, quintessentially English children's stories. The Hollywood adaptation ignores this for a brash comedy that misses the point of the books. Worst of all is the main character was turned from a mischevious youngster to a sociopath who's actively trying to kill someone. There were the occasional jokes that made me chuckle like the Rooster (Will Reichelt). But the film was an obnoxious, cynical cash grab that took away the charm of Potter's work. Watch the '90s animated series instead.
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018)
A bold but divisive experiment
Charlie Brooker is known for being a video game enthusiast as well as being a talented writer and satirist. He got to compare all of these with the interactive film Bandersnatch which gives audiences branching pathways and a meta-narrative about a young video game designer losing control and alternative timelines. It is basically the Heavy Rain or Stanley Parable of the TV world. It's a film that allows you to awaken a viewer's inner psychopath. It is a film keeps to Black Mirror's bleak outlook and outcomes. It is a bold experiment that will divide audiences but I personally enjoyed Bandersnatch for what it is.
A good mainstream horror offering
Adaptations of Stephen King novels can be hit or miss. Fortunately It: Chapter One is one of the better adaptations. The director Andy Muschietti followed what worked in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (i.e. the visions) and the friendship of Stand By Me. It is far from a scary film but is a good offering as a mainstream horror film because of the relationship and performances from the young actors, giving the film an '80s Spielbergian feel. Muschietti and the writers being able to show the corrupting influence of It on the town. If The Shining is a haunted house film It is a haunted town film.
A interesting horror-thriller
Steven Soderburgh is a director who has a varied career, making mainstream films, awards contenders and experimental art-house films. Unsane was on the experimental side - a low budget thriller that was filmed in 10 days using a iPhone.
Unsane starts off slowly following Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) rebuilding her like in Philadelphia and ends up going to a psychiatry facility where she gets trapped.
Unsane follows One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest style film where people end up trapped in these facilities and their behaviour can be interpreted in a negative light. There were also elements of a previous Soderburgh film Side Effects - a film that started as a serious drama and turns into a twisty thriller. And if you like these films Unsane is for you.
Unsane was blessed with the talents of Claire Foy who gives a terrific performance who's pushed to the limit in the facility. The use of the iPhone gave the film a naturalistic look and used a lot of instance close-ups. It works as a psychological horror-thriller.
A Wrinkle in Time (2018)
When it comes sci-fi films Disney has a poor recent track record. Tron: Legacy, John Carter, and Tomorrowland were all flops that were met with a mix reaction. A Wrinkle in Time follows that trajectory and is particularly hated by fans of the novel. It was a such a flop that it didn't get a Blu-ray release in the UK and in some countries not even a theatrical release.
I have not read the novel so I can only the film on its own merits. It is not deserving of a weak 4.2 on IMDB and it should be somewhere in the 6 range. The film was a visual spectacle with strong CGI and bright colours. It film itself was basically a Doctor Who style fantasy and is it possibly why I'm not that hostile to the film.
However, the film shouldn't have centred itself around a child actor who well, couldn't act and Mindy Kaling was irritating speaking in quotes.
Another hit for Bong Joon-ho
Made for Netflix Okja is a sci-fi that all the hallmarks to be a cult classic. Made by Bong Joon-ho (The Host, Showpiecer), Okja is a film filled with his trademark combination of high-concept, humour and special effects and Okja can stand along his previous hits. Like those films Okja is surreal, wacky, has dark moments and unashamedly political. The most fun sequence is easily the escape in Seoul which was funny and exciting and a great mix of CGI effects and a car chase.
Mary Queen of Scots (2018)
Should have been a miniseries
Mary Queen of Scots is proven that a film can have lavish production values, great acting and directing and still falter if the screenplay is not up to scratch. After a fantastic open the film ends up trying to fit too much history in too short a run time. It would have worked better as a mini-series.
Universal Soldier (1992)
A Classic 90s Actioneer
Universal Soldier was Roland Emmerich's first American film and made at time where macho action films were king. And it deserves a place in the large back catalogue of '90s action films. Watching it as a first time viewer in 2019 it was refreshing because it was a simple high-concept film that had well crafted practical effects, stunt work and unashamedly violent. It may not be the best acted film considering its leads nor particularly deep film but it makes up for by being a simple, well-crafted film and is a breezy watch.
The fight for justice
Thurgood Marshall was the first African-American to become a judge on the Supreme Court and before that was a successful lawyer for the NAACP. The biopic Marshall looks at one of his court cases where he teams up with an insurance lawyer in Connecticut.
Marshall was clearly an important figure and the biopic focuses on a small slice of his life. What was delivered was solid courtroom drama set to the backdrop of the racial discrimination in the 1940s. It aimed to be Oscar-bait film and it doesn't reach that level yet fans of films about the legal system and historical dramas would be able to enjoy it.
Mary Magdalene (2018)
A dull attempt of Biblical Revisionism.
The 2018 version of Mary Magdalene was meant to be a retelling of the last days of Jesus Christ from her point of view It was meant to set the record straight and it does have some virtues - having a talented cast and some lovely cinematography. Mary Magdalene could have been a great well to revisit a classical Biblical story but sadly the director and writers did it in the most boring way possible because it is a film the doesn't have a lot about the role of women in the live of Jesus. It should have been better
Black Robe (1991)
A clash of cultures in a solid period drama
Based on a novel by Brian Moore Black Robe was a Canadian-Australian period drama made at a time when there was a mini boom of films about Native Americans (i.e. Dances with Wolves, The Last of the Mohicans and Pocahontas.) This film set in 17th century Quebec sees two missionaries go to a remote village where they have to battle harsh winter conditions, hostile natives and their own doubts.
Black Robe was a well received when it was first released but it has become more of a forgotten gem. It has a light story but it makes up for it because it was an avenue for the director and screenwriter to show the hardships of the journey, the clash of cultures and religions and questioning of ones faith. Bruce Beresford made a film with excellent production values, showing the basic settlements in the region and showing a great level of violence when the mission face a rival tribe.
Seek if out if you like films such as Dances with Wolves, The Last of the Mohicans, The Mission, The Revenent and Aguirre, the Wrath of God.