Month: November 2017
- November 30, 2017
Director: Garth Davis
Release: March 30th, 2018
I adore each one of these actors, I can’t think of anyone better suited for these parts, but I’m still not sure this is the passion film I’ve been waiting for. What I want is reality. Portray Jesus as a guy who means well but who gets drunk with power. Show him having sex with Mary. Make his death about local politics. Basically, tell the story how it most likely happened, based on all we’ve observed of human nature through recorded time. If this movie approaches that, I’ll stand up and applaud.
- November 29, 2017
Director: Tim Burstall
I’m not sure what I was possibly counting on from an Australian WWII movie made in the early 80s and starring a 25-year-old who was otherwise busy playing Max Rockatansky, but Attack Force Z didn’t live up to whatever limited expectations I had, heading the complete opposite direction toward utter disappointment. I heard Mel and Sam, I saw Pacific war theater, I felt like the film might have a legitimate shot, but I never stopped to wonder why I hadn’t come across its title before, or why so few others had either in the past 36 years. The answer is simple; this isn’t a good movie, and although you could call it a vehicle for a couple stars, I wonder if they’d risk having their names attached to it by doing the same.
World War II wages on, and the Australians conduct a guerilla war behind enemy lines with the Japanese. The special unit is called Zed, ‘Z’ for us Americans, and its mission is simple; covertly maneuver among the shipping lanes of the Empire of Japan, report all movement back to headquarters, and sabotage whenever possible. Sink ships, kill lookouts, discover plans; Z was in charge of the secret operations and dirty work that lent itself to high casualty rates and brutal close encounters. This film is a summary of their duty, a fictional account of what it was like to be a member of Special Unit Z, to fight in the jungles of the Pacific islands far from your friends and too close to your enemies.
Dropped off near land by a submarine and paddling the rest of the way in canvas canoes, a small group of Australian, British, and Dutch soldiers begin a dangerous mission among a peaceful people, but deep in the heart of Japanese territory. Their goal is to find the wreckage of a downed airplane, discover what happened to the men aboard, and either rescue or kill them; no loose ends to divulge important secrets. The idea is to sneak in unseen, to remain invisible, to find the plane, and then to escape before enemy forces even know Z was on the island. But you know what they say about best-laid plans, and in wartime, no maneuver goes as imagined, and no rescue costs no lives.
Mel Gibson was just starting out as an actor and making a name for himself as Mad Max when he filmed this movie, a side project that didn’t become anything more than a memory, and a bad one at that. Sam Neill makes an appearance as well, having not yet become the star that we know him as today. And also, JP Law pops up, a man you might recognize from Barbarella, where he played an angel who didn’t make love because angels are love. Anyway, that’s the highlight of the film, the trio of actors that you’ve seen do better in other roles, because you sure aren’t going to see them do anything impressive here. It’s not really their fault, they weren’t given much to work work, and they definitely didn’t create anything on their own, the result of which was plain, and sad, to see.
Attack Force Z is an awful adaptation of the American commando genre, a cross between John Wayne who came before and John Rambo who would come after, a weird mix that wasn’t fun to watch or cool to see. I don’t know exactly how Australians do their war movies, but this felt like a reach from the start, like an attempt to put something on film that never needed to be there and probably couldn’t work. It’s a great true story, this brigade, fascinating stuff, and maybe Mel Gibson should reanimate the idea now that’s he’s a director, but Tim Burstall definitely wasn’t the man for the job. The movie is boring, amateur, more a skit than real cinema, and never convinced audiences to buy in or to even pretend that we care. This isn’t a hidden gem, unfortunately, just a rock with the smallest amount of shine necessary to catch your eye.
Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (1080p Widescreen), the video quality of the Blu-ray disc is fairly terrible. This 80s flick did not transfer well, especially in low-light situations, and the movie is consistently grainy throughout. Of course we all understand the year that this movie was filmed, we can’t be too hard on it, but visually it just isn’t appealing.
Audio – The Blu-ray was done in English Dual Mono, with an option of English subtitles. That’s it as far as the audio, and there isn’t really much to remark upon here other than an awful soundtrack that always seemed to be playing the wrong music at the worst times.
Extras – There are only a few special features on the disc. The Z-Men Debriefed is a 27-minute, behind-the-scenes segment with some background on the movie. A Theatrical Trailer is available. And there is also an Image Gallery.
Skip It. Sometimes you stumble across something wonderful when you dive into an actor’s filmography, but that’s isn’t the case with Attack Force Z, a war movie that seems a copy rather than an original, a drama that leaves all the emotion at the door. It was nice to see these actors in younger roles, and one piece of trivia from the featurette that amused me was that Sam Neill worked in movies but wasn’t an actor, until people told him he was so handsome he ought to give it a try. That actually explains him as a professional pretty well, and you know, he’d eventually get into the groove, some of his work as he ages is the best I’ve ever seen from him. But back to the movie; you are probably best avoiding it. The video is poor, the audio is nothing, the extras are few; don’t look for technical marvels here. And don’t expect an overlooked classic either; search for that elsewhere.
☆ – Content
☆ – Video
☆ ☆ – Audio
☆ ☆ – Extras
☆ – Replay
- November 28, 2017
Director: Sean Baker
The Florida Project is one of 2017’s most talked-about films, an independent feature that has Hollywood chops, and legitimate Oscar hopes. Sean Baker’s Tangerine was an underground hit two years ago, and he follows that up with another, a movie that feels like a documentary but with the prowess of a high-end drama. How he melts his styles is beyond me, and beyond most other directors as well, since no one seems to be doing what he’s doing. Well, I take that back; Andrea Arnold did it with American Honey, and I think I prefer that film over this one, if just barely, so it’s worth mentioning. But Florida Project is undeniably unique in many ways, it’s on everyone’s tongue this year, and you ought to see it, if only for the unusual experience it provides.
In the third-rate hotels of Orlando, near Disney, the lives of their occupants roll on regardless of progress, princesses, or day passes. There is rent to be paid and food to be bought, although where the money comes from is always a question. Moonee’s mom hustles, making a buck however she can. Stripping, selling wholesale perfume, prostitution; what matters most is where the next meal is coming from. In the summer months and while not in school, Moonee spends time with her mom watching TV and walking in vacant lots, palling around with friends who also live in the hotel whenever her mom is busy. This vivacious little girl finds joy where she can, since her world isn’t filled with easy choices and nice people, since her home is a room number that can change on any given day.
I did enjoy American Honey more, if we’re judging within a style. It was more adult, more chaotic, had more actual actors, and delivered more of a specific, special mood. It was long though, and did leap about a good bit, so that’s something that can be put in Florida Project‘s corner; it was fairly short and was ultra-focused on life in this one purple-painted hotel. It’s almost a documentary of an alternative lifestyle, and a reminder that growing up is growing up, no matter where you do it. Credit to Sean Baker for executing a very fascinating vision, kudos to the amateur actors in this film who gave it a realistic vibe, and shout out to Willem Dafoe, who was pretty great. I can’t see this movie winning many Academy Awards, I don’t think it excelled in exactly that way or that much, but I do think it’s well worth your time, something you don’t see every day but is worth your notice.
My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
- November 27, 2017
Director: Joachim Trier
I expected too much out of Thelma, an indie sci-fi flick from Norway whose trailer caught my attention in a big way. It’s science fiction with an obvious overlapping metaphor, the paranormal element only serving to highlight the point of the film in an exciting way, not a trick but call it a vehicle. I wanted this depth to the story and was excited to figure out just what was going on with our title character, just what her special powers represented. Perhaps my expectations were too high, or perhaps the ceiling for this film was too low, because it definitely did not deliver the punch I was hoping to be rocked by, instead ending as a fine feature with something to say but nothing to impart.
Thelma is off to college after living a sheltered life among Christian parents. She doesn’t drink, tells her mom & dad everything, and has a hard time making new friends outside of her religion, partially because she simply doesn’t fit it. School is opening her mind a bit; she’s beginning to find science quite fascinating, some of the beliefs of her youth quite silly, although her father is a doctor and never preached that the Earth was only a couple thousand years old. Thelma is also trying new things, like alcohol and cigarettes, at the recommendation of a new friend, Anja. Before she knows it, the two are developing feelings for one another, which is definitely against Thelma’s believes, a transgression that awakens a power inside her that she had forgotten she possessed.
The film’s beginning is very strong, and the story sucks you in right away. A sheltered girl, the new place she’s experiencing, the scary feelings that she can’t deny; it’s exciting to watch. And then it’s made all the more so by whatever this power is that Thelma is developing; we begin to learn more and more about the truth of her past and what the future might hold bit by bit. It’s very cool, very interesting, the time flies by, and the metaphor is clear as it develops. I just wish the movie had ended differently, and that it had developed more power before it swung its fist for the big finale. I was expecting a lot, and the first half of the film delivered, but the second simply fizzled out, and I was left slightly disappointed. Harboe was solid as Thelma, she is a very captivating actress, and the plot was layered nicely, not revealing everything at once. I just wanted more I think, a little more polish, a little more pizzazz, but the movie filled its given space and was unable to break free to deliver anything else. A good but not great watch, still something to check out and think about; perhaps it will strike you differently.
My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆
- November 25, 2017
Director: Zach Snyder
The DC Universe isn’t expanding with as much success as was anticipated, critics and audiences alike jumping on board to rip open the flaws in the franchise to expose the deeper decay within. But I’d like to play devil’s advocate for a minute in support of what DC is trying to do, although that seems backwards in multiple ways. First, let’s compare this Universe to Marvel’s, which didn’t start off so hot either. The Avengers movies are kinda bad, enjoyable but crappy, and although Iron Man was an instant hit, things really didn’t start rolling until Captain America took over, and until they started to create a few comedies to throw into the mix: GOTG, Ant-Man, Ragnarok. In a way, DC isn’t too far off track. Man of Steel was a good movie, IMHO, and Wonder Woman seems to be the franchise-defining series that will elevate the entire project. Add in a funny Flash film later on and you’re basically walking down the same path Marvel did. There’s reason to be hopeful for DC, and really, although this might be an unpopular opinion, Justice League isn’t any worse the Age of Ultron.
With the death of Superman, humanity has lost its hope that good can conquer evil, that love with always win out over hate. Our hero has fallen, and no one has stood up to take his place. Batman understands what Superman’s sacrifice meant to the world, and he is determined to not let the loss of Clark go to waste. He sets about creating a team of enhanced individuals in order to meet any threat that visits the Earth, but even he didn’t understand how quickly that threat would come. With mankind in chaos and ripe for the conquering, a powerful trio of cubes has called to its former owner, a destroyer of worlds called Steppenwolf. He once almost destroyed us, but was turned away; now he’s back to finish the job. Batman and Wonder Woman unite, but they need more help, and fast. Barry Allen, a young man who can move like lighting, Arthur Curry, the lord of the sea, and Victor Stone, half man half machine; these heroes will have to step up if the Earth has any hope of defeating Steppenwolf and regaining the faith we once had in a peaceful future.
Dawn of Justice was a big, dull dud, I think we can agree on that, but Justice League was a step forward. There were negatives, for sure, I’m no fawning fanboy, but let’s stick to the positives first. Like I said, the Avengers movies weren’t great when they started out, they were a bit messy and overly action-packed, playing on the hope that we wouldn’t notice the crappy because superheroes make us happy. This film does the same, tossing in a ton of characters and hoping we’d overlook the lack of cinematic precision, but this is something we can expect from the genre; very few comic book movies are going to be artistic hits. But at least you know exactly what you’re getting from this film; it’s better than its dark predecessor but fairly genre specific. It’s fun, it’s over the top, it’s fast; what were you expecting when you sat down to watch it? Flash is pretty great, and I’m looking forward to more Ezra Miller, but the man who really stole the show was Cyborg, Ray Fisher playing the character perfectly and perhaps out-acting all involved. There is much to enjoy here, as long as your expectations are very low.
Now, that’s not entirely fair, we shouldn’t have to be prepared for complete shit in order to kinda like a movie, I get that, and all involved should have done better if they wanted us to fall in love or even just get off their backs. From the very start, you could tell this film was riddled with problems that were inexcusably left in for god knows what reason. First was The Non-Mustache, which is embarrassing, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about look it up so you won’t be shocked by Superman’s face when he makes his appearances. Next, the villain is stupid, a random god-like thing that just appears because he wants to and has no real connection to anything. Also, you can tell that Ben Affleck is already checked out, that he’s not interested in being here, and I didn’t like his interactions with Gal Gadot, I felt like her character was extremely cheapened from what we’ve seen from her before. Aquaman was a bit trivial, Lois Lane didn’t need to be here, Martha Kent was a dumb addition, Commissioner Gordon was throwaway; there were constant missteps that even the casual fan could have pointed out a mile away. But I’ll say it again; although the movie is obviously imperfect, it hasn’t jumped the rails completely, and there’s still hope that in 5 years we could look back and see this film as a messy start to what was ultimately an entertaining franchise.
My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆
- November 24, 2017
Director: Simon Curtis
An imperfect but heart-melting melodrama, Goodbye Christopher Robin is a new Finding Neverland and another peak into the private world of an author’s inspiration. Like its predecessor, this film follows a recipe guaranteed to play with our emotions. A playwright, his personal struggles, the magic that both allows his artistic juices to flow and also heals the wounds of a life that didn’t turn out quite the way he would have written it up; we’ve seen but enjoyed it before. And don’t forget the little boy who serves as inspiration but who has a life of his own, a child who is both a character to love and an individual who longs for it. I don’t blame this movie for sticking to the script and betting on its ability to make us well up; it’s a smart idea, it was developed as well as the parameters would allow, and it succeeded, at least as much as can be expected.
This is the true story of A.A. Milne’s classic books surrounding the misadventures of one very special bear, Winnie the Pooh. Milne was a veteran of WWI, an upper-crust author who couldn’t quite slide smoothly back into a life of parties and speeches after witnessing the horrors of the trenches of the Front. So he moved his family to the countryside to seek fresh ideas, but he never imagined that they would come from within his own home and from the woods surrounding it. Milne’s son, named Christopher Robin but called Billy, loved imaginary journeys through the forest, and these fictions combined with his adoration for stuffed animals led to the idea that would become one of the most successful family franchises in literary history. But fame doesn’t come without a price, and as Christopher Robin became such a public figure, Billy lost what he needed the most; a unique connection with his parents and a world that was all his own.
It really was as if Domhnall Gleeson took over Johnny Depp’s role, which is fine because they both have a random ‘h’ in their first names. The characters’ situations were similar, Berry was even mentioned in the movie to be at a Milne play, the boys were equally cute, and audiences were given the opportunity to see the why behind the what. I really don’t mean that as a negative though, I’m sure there are countless books I would be fascinated to the know the meaning behind, and I’m also sure that many of those are very personal and perhaps even sad. Goodbye Christopher Robin is predictable in that way, somber and sobering, but with a magical quality that can still give you a smile. Gleeson is good not great as Milne, Robbie seems to be phoning in her performance, Macdonald and the kid basically stealing the show. The woods are beautiful, the meanings are clear, I’m glad I learned; just don’t expect Oscar-winning aspects to assail you as you watch, this is Finding Neverland content without being exactly the caliber.
My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆
- November 22, 2017
Category : DVD Review
Director: Frederic Mermoud
The understated French drama of the year is Moka, a revenge tale without the revenge. This is a style that we see every season, the quiet, heavy, high-character, low-action, French film that critics are supposed to eat up and convince audiences that they should like too. And sometimes it works, sometimes we relate to you that a foreign film of this genre is exactly that, weighty but wonderful. Moka, I’m afraid, doesn’t fall into that category. It is dramatic, yes, it is familiar, which isn’t always unwelcome, but it lacks the punch needed to make up for the slow speed of its story. Basically, this film is an average suspense flick that doesn’t deliver a satisfying kick to the teeth, and so shouldn’t illicit much mention going forward.
Diane has lost her son, and the grief of his death will shatter her entire world. He was struck during a hit-and-run and didn’t survive long, leaving a sudden hollow space in the hearts of his family where the joy of his existence had once been. His mother cannot move on, his accident even resulting in the separation of her marriage and a stay in a facility. But time away didn’t heal the wounds nor take away the pain, and all she can think about is what she no longer has, and what she wants to do to the person responsible. The police are no help, they haven’t found any leads, but a private investigator rounds up a few suspects, and so Diane takes the case upon herself.
She begins looking for the mocha-colored car, a Mercedes or BMW, that killed her son, knowing that it can’t hide from her for long. She lives in the resort area around Lake Geneva, a holiday locale in the Alps on the border between France and Switzerland, so the car must be from around the area and probably didn’t go far. With the help of the detective, she locates multiple suspects and begins to stake them out, finding one likely candidate with a classic car that has recently had work done to its front end. As she starts to research the possible murderers, she finds herself entering their lives, even feigning a desire to buy the car in question. The line between her anger and her curiosity is blurred, as is the definition of right and wrong, and Diane gets too close to those she may wish to kill.
I’ve seen both Devos and Baye in other films, and their performances here were on par with what I’ve seen, but I’m not sure that’s a great thing. Devos was rather boring in Violette, a biopic that I just couldn’t get into. Baye was uniquely maternal in It’s Only the End of the World, but that film was Xavier Dolan’s weakest feature, and it failed to make an impact. Both actresses were fine here in Moka, but neither did enough to earn praise, neither stepped up to pick up the slack when the story began to drag, and for that I’m quite disappointed. Other than perhaps one scene together, and another with only Devos where rather than looking like she’d been crying it appeared that they simply poured water on her face for the same effect, nothing about this film resonated as impactful or worthwhile.
The locale was amazing and I instantly wanted to go there, but that wasn’t the point, obviously, and that shouldn’t be the only thing I take away from this story. It was supposed to be gripping, vengeful, powerful, but it was only pathetic. I felt bad for everyone involved, I felt the pain, but that wasn’t enough to get me through 90 minutes. The film was short and sweet, but that only means there was less time to pack in the raw material, to force audiences to ride in that car alongside the characters, and that never happened. The genre and the style were respected here, but they were never elevated, and so the film fizzles rather than explodes, piques out curiosities rather than demanding that we rubberneck.
Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 Widescreen and shot using a Red Epic Dragon camera with Cooke S4 and Angenieux HR lenses, the video quality of the DVD was as unremarkable as the film itself. The location, as I have mentioned, was beautiful, and I’d like to go stay on Lake Geneva immediately, I just hope it’s not too expensive. But that’s about it, the setting trumped the cinematography.
Audio – The disc was done in French 5.1 Surround, with an option of 2.0 Stereo. English subtitles can be turned on or off in this menu. The audio quality of the film is forgettable at best, without a memorable soundtrack or backing track. It’s also without noticeable flaws, so that’s to its credit, but barely.
Extras – There are a few special features on the DVD if you want more, but there aren’t many. A Bonus Short Film entitled Le Creneau can be viewed, starring Devos and running 13 minutes. There is an Interview With Director Frederic Mermoud, which lasts 20 minutes. There are six Film Movement Trailers: Amnesia, Glory, After the Storm, If You Don’t I Will, Breathe, My King. And lastly, About Film Movement is a paragraph of text about the distributor.
Recommended. ‘Slow burn’ is a term often used for films such as these, and often that applies, but I wouldn’t agree to use it here. Some also thought that this film held a Hitchcockian atmosphere, but again, I don’t think so. Rather, that seems to be what the director was shooting for, but not what he hit, instead failing to produce enough traction to slow audiences down before their eyes flew over the plot and their minds went someplace else. Moka is good but not great, an interesting revenge story with solid acting that wasn’t pushed to any heights worth our respect. The video was fine, the audio was OK, and there are a few extras, so the technical aspects of the film reveal themselves to be as lackluster as the rest. If you already like these actresses or this director, if you happen to already love this genre, then feel free to dive in, I think you’ll enjoy yourself. Otherwise, there are better options out there.
☆ ☆ ☆ – Content
☆ ☆ ☆ – Video
☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio
☆ ☆ ☆ – Extras
☆ ☆ – Replay