May 042016


So, in April I decided to pick up the viewing pace after a slow month prior and ended up with 33 films viewed and 16 episodes of TV. Only six of these were cinema visits (of which I reviewed three). The home viewing was split between March/April DTV releases that interested me, Bond films (I caught five, and now only have three left to watch), and John Carpenter films. The Prince of Darkness, which I had only ever seen lukewarm reactions for, turned out to be my favourite film of the month.

Goosebumps update: I have now read 48 of the original 62, so that was another 26 in April. Keep an eye out for an article about this very interesting experience, and every Goosebumps book ranked, in mid May. Other books read this month included Jonathan Ames’ very funny Wake Up Sir and Charlotte Wood’s punishingly bleak The Natural Way of Things. 

I finished the remarkable Uncharted 2, and completed a good chunk of Uncharted 3. It’s solid, but it has some clunky shooting mechanics and a far less compelling story. Kanye’s The Life of Pablo and Kevin Morby’s Singing Saw would be my favourite new albums this month.

Coming up in May: the completion of some projects – Goosebumps and Bond, notably – and hopefully a stack of pre-Sydney Film Festival screeners to enjoy. Check out my thoughts on the new-to-me films after the jump:


Theatrical Screenings

Midnight SpecialJeff Nichols is the best. This beautiful, understated family drama with a sci-fi twist earns an enormous emotional payoff with a thoughtful build-up. We are dropped into this world, in the middle of the central group of characters fleeing a motel. Why are they running? We don’t know, but Nichols trusts his ideas and we gradually put the pieces together. The performances are all perfect, but Edgerton’s quiet, stoic turn was my personal highlight. (4.5/5)

Captain America: Civil WarReviewed (4/5)

Santa Sangre – Very strange. Jodorowsky is always committed to his bizarre vision, but this has a fairly literal plot for him. The Giallo-inspired shift adds welcomed tension, but loses the carnivale freak-show pizazz. Watched in 35mm. (3.5/5)

A Month of SundaysReviewed (3.5/5)

The Jungle BookUnderwhelming. An episodic plot, underdeveloped emotional core and distracting voice cast, but the world/creature visuals are amazing. Geography goes off the rails in the end, the kid playing Mowgli is quite bad and the ‘musical’ interludes are odd [late additions?]. Despite being very overhyped, there are some individually awesome scenes that swept me away. (3/5)

The Huntsman: Winter’s War Reviewed (2/5)


New at-home

Prince of Darkness Oh, that score. I can gauge a horror film’s success by how often I look over my shoulder during viewing to see if there is something lurking or watching. I looked over my shoulder a lot in this. A masterclass of tension-building, and now perhaps my favourite Carpenter along with The Thing. (4.5/5)

High Rise – Watched twice in the same night. That says it all. Perhaps Ben Wheatley’s best film to date – a scathing, ugly, anarchic microcosm study of class warfare with a fine, committed cast and a visual and auditory bombardment of pleasures. (4.5/5)

The Fog – Colonialism masks violent history and on centennial celebrations revenge rolls in. Atmospheric (duh, it is Carpenter), with an ace cast and nifty, efficient editing. (4/5)

Wallace and Gromit and the Curse of the Were-RabbitI am always in awe of what Aardman come up with – and having been a fan of the Wallace and Gromit short films as a kid I am surprised it took me this long to watch it. Stunning(4/5)

License to Kill –  The darkest, most serious Bond film was welcomed in the wake of some of those awful late-Connery ones. More of an undercover drug-sting/action film than the typical Bond film, but, the final tanker driving feats aside, this doesn’t pull any punches in telling its compelling story. (4/5)

The Living DaylightsThe other Timothy Dalton one. It was here that I realised that Dalton was Daniel Craig, before Craig.  Most die-hard Bond fans have them reversed, but I found both to be strong entries. May have the most intricate Bond plot of all. (3.5/5)

Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull StoryI am still not exactly sure what I watched here, but it was hilarious and weird and meta, and the Coogan/Brydon/Winterbottom collaboration is a National treasure. (3.5/5)

LemonadeNot necessarily a Beyonce fan, but I admire her tremendous talent and influence on the pop culture landscape. Her last album (excellent) dropped unexpectedly, but this visual album is bursting with cinematographic experimentation, and conveys a potent message about black women’s agency, and maintaining positivity in a land of second chances. (3.5/5)

GlasslandPowerful slice-of-life drama showcases the under-appreciated talents of Jack Reynor (What Richard Did), a hard-working, but financially-struggling Dublin taxi driver whose mother (Toni Collette) is a seriously struggling alcoholic. Unable to look after her any longer, and desiring a way out from his rut, he takes on a shady underworld job to pay for her rehab. The film’s often uncomfortable realism is so convincing that it is easy to forget you are watching performers. The plot is too thin to be significant, but it certainly has some shocking moments. (3.5/5)

Our Brand is Crisis – Proving to be very sticky, and I think Sandra Bullock’s brilliant, demented performance has a lot to do with it. Green is making interesting movies again. This is a cause for celebration, as he re-entered the rut after the wonderful Prince Avalanche. (3/5)

StretchA demented full-throttle ride through the seedy underbelly of LA. Joe Carnahan’s chaotic single-day film is so bizarre it is a wonder it all doesn’t crash and burn, like Wilson’s limo. The voice-over narration, while amusing, is on the extreme end of things, but the cast are all in-tune with Carnahan’s crazy vision. (3/5)

Live and Let DieApart from that boat chase sequence, which runs on forever, I was impressed with this Bond. I especially liked the 70s Harlem settings, and Mr. Big is one of the greatest ever Bond villains. (3/5)

A View to a KillWidely regarded as the worst Bond ever, but this San Francisco-set outing is actually rather entertaining with its absurd lack of stakes. Moore was too old for the role, and it is predictably too long, but a lot of the jokes hit their mark, Walken chews the scenery as the villain, and there are some impressive set-pieces. (3/5)

RegressionSomething new for Emma Watson, and she doesn’t quite get it right, but Ethan Hawke’s obsession with a case of sexual abuse that could be linked to satanic cult rituals is unnervingly unhinged, and Amenabar builds credible unease. Not great, but not the disaster most have claimed. (2.5/5)

Victor Frankenstein – Radcliffe’s post-Potter career continues to be fascinating, but McAvoy’s loony turn (more of this craziness than bloody X-Men films, please) keeps this unruly re-imagining of the classic Shelley tale strangely addictive, even as the cartoonish screenplay and direction slays attempts to tackle the story’s more challenging intellectual ideas. (2.5/5)

Everything Before UsHas interesting ideas – builds a world in which your relationship status and strength is monitored by an agency; this number is then used as a source of social status and may even influence your employment chances. Two couples try to navigate this world, dealing with individual aspirations that threaten their relationships. The acting is inconsistent and the musical score is horrendous, but it has its heart in the right place, and on its relatively low budget runs with its idea admirably. (2.5/5)

The Man With the Golden GunFeels like a ‘bad’ Bond parody from the get-go. Only Christopher Lee’s villain, Scaramanga, rises above the Bond cellar. (2/5)

The Adderall DiariesA ‘Bad James Franco movie’ is becoming a thing. The guy does so many. This actually has some interesting ideas – substance abuse that blurs memory and reality, and the repercussions of living your life feeling hard done by and refusing to repair relationships, when it carries professional weight. A plain-Jane Amber Heard, and some messy editing, null impact repeatedly. (2/5)

Deadpool – Deadpool: “I live in a crack house. With a family of twelve. There’s nothing we don’t share. Floor space. Dental floss. Even condoms.” Morena Baccarin: “So you live in a house.” This is Deadpool. Everything has tacked on vulgarity and meta references. It talks itself to death. Anorexic-thin origin story. Actually, there is no story. An origin…idea…stretched out for 100 minutes. Reynolds is well-cast, but even he can’t make this tolerable. T.J. Miller is the only one to provide genuine off-the-cuff laughs. One of the year’s worst to date. (1.5/5)

I also watched Mr Rightbut for professional reasons cannot discuss.

cloud atlas banner


Cloud Atlas (5/5)

High Rise (4.5/5)

Spotlight (4/5)

Side Effects (4/5)

The Town (4/5)

The Five-Year Engagement (3.5/5)

M. Hulot’s Holiday (3/5)



Fargo S2 E6-10 (Season – 4.5/5)

The Thick Of It Season 1 (4.5/5)

The Thick of It Season 2 E1-2 

11.22.63 S1 E7-8 (Season – 3.5/5)

The Stand (mini-series) E1-2

The Night Manager S1 E3

Casual S1 E1

Hap & Leonard S1 E1

The Girlfriend Experience S1 E1