Friday, 16 February 2018

STAR TREK: DISCOVERY (full review at The Reel Word)

After an incident aboard the U.S.S. Shenzhou results in the United Federation of Planets entering into a war with the mysterious and vicious Klingon Empire, disgraced former First Officer, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), finds herself amongst the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery. The Discovery is a prototype ship, a one-of-a-kind, because it hosts an experimental spore drive (derived from fungus). Under the guidance of Chief Engineer Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) it allows Discovery to use an intricate mycelial network (similar to the roots of a plant) to transport itself, undetected, to almost anywhere in the universe. Instantaneously.

Beginning life on Discovery as a pariah, Burnham strives to regain the trust of her new crewmembers and former shipmates.  Under the command of Captain Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs), and with the friendship of Cadet Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman), Burnham begins her path to redemption, as the Federation battles for survival.

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IMDB: Star Trek: Discovery

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

ALTERED CARBON (full review at The Reel Word)

To try and concisely summarise the plot of Altered Carbon, Netflix’s latest big budget foray into your living room, would likely take as much space as the housebrick of a novel on which it is based. But the gist of it, adapting Richard K Morgan’s 2002 sci-fi opus into ten tasty increments, is thus…

In the distant future human beings are equipped with a device at the base of their skull known as a stack. Acting as a sort of hard-drive-for-the-soul, the stack stores a person’s life, memory, and identity, known as Digital Human Freight (DHF). If a person’s stack remains intact when they die then it is possible to place the stack in a new body, or sleeve, and for the person to carry on living with all the same memories, emotions and experiences. The technology, although available to all, is unsurprisingly controlled by the super-rich. This wealthiest one per cent, having cheated ‘real death’ for generations, are known as Meths, after the Bible’s oldest man Methuselah.

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IMDB: Altered Carbon

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 (full review at The Reel Word)

S. Craig Zahler’s second movie Brawl In Cell Block 99, like his intense debut Bone Tomahawk, bypasses Australian cinemas and arrives direct-to-dvd on 31 January. But be under no misapprehension about its quality. Cell Block is a blisteringly violent prison movie, and its tough guy sensibility has swaggered right out of the 1970s to sock you square on the jaw.

Bradley Thomas (Vince Vaughn) is laid off from his tow-truck driver job. His marriage to wife Lauren (Jennifer Carpenter) is under strain, and he finds himself with little other option than to become a drug runner for local dealer Gil (Marc Blukas). As can be deduced from the title of the movie, things do not go well and Bradley finds himself in the clink. On his first day inside, rival drug dealer Eleazar (Dion Mucciacito) contacts him to offer a terrifying ultimatum. In order to save Lauren and their child he must kill a fellow inmate.

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IMDB: Brawl In Cell Block 99

Monday, 22 January 2018

THE FLORIDA PROJECT (full review at The Reel Word)

Sean Baker’s The Florida Project draws us into the lives of residents of the Magic Castle Hotel, living on the fringes of the Florida tourist district, just beyond the reach (and wealth) of Disney’s iconic theme park. It highlights the cruel disparity between ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’, and those that live in poverty just down the street. The wealth, affluence and manicured utopia of Disney versus the brightly coloured, unofficial motels and tourist trap gift shops.

The slice-of-life approach to the storytelling invites us to delve into the experiences of 6 year old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and her best friends Scooty (Christopher Rivera) and Jancey (Valeria Cotto), as well as Moonee’s mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) and hotel manager Bobby (Willem Dafoe).

It is the summer holidays and Moonee and her friends are running wild around the hotel and local area. Our introduction sees them getting into trouble for spitting on cars, mouthing off at adults and scrounging ice cream money from passersby. Halley has no inclination to get work, preferring to hang around at the hotel, or sell knock-off perfumes to country club patrons. But this only makes her weekly struggle to make rent a lot worse. Bobby (Willem Dafoe), the hotel manager, does his best in a demanding and unappreciated job, he doesn’t take any shit and he has to enforce the rules, but he also casts a protective arm around his residents and the kids in particular

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IMDB: The Florida Project

Wednesday, 3 January 2018


Top Ten Movies of 2017 

1. Blade Runner 2049   
Denis Villeneuve's slow burn, existential detective tec noir, returns us to the grimy, stifling, corporate ruled dystopia of Ridley Scott's classic and is immensely satisfying. It leaves us with plenty of questions and dazzles the eyeballs in doing so. It's strange and obtuse and proved to be - financially at least – not what people were expecting from a Ryan Gosling sci-fi blockbuster. It plays like 70s sci-fi in that we have to figure out a lot of it ourselves, but this is intelligent, challenging, beautiful and everything I want from modern science fiction. Extraordinary.

2. Downsizing
Alexander Payne's wonderful science fiction movie is funny and thoughtful and has a bunch of considered points to make.  As Matt Damon shrinks down to an environmentally friendly miniature, the combination of inspired concept and expert characterisation makes for an intelligent, amusing and heartwarming experience.

3. I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore
Macon Blair’s darkly comedic directorial debut rails against societal ills and is deeply identifiable to your cranky inner self. Melanie Lynskey is always incredible but this might be her finest hour so far. Exasperated and alienated by the self-obsession and selfishness of more or less everybody, the last straw arrives in the form of a burglary. The cops could care less, so she takes it upon herself to solve the crime, reclaim her stuff and exact vengeance upon the home invaders. Part violent wish fulfillment, part angry rant at the state of Trump America, IDFAHITWA articulates the frustrations of many. On top of all that it’s a compelling tale of wannabe revenge reaction, plus David Yow from the Jesus Lizard plays the villain, and Elijah Wood is a New-Wave-Of-British-Heavy-Metal obsessed neighbour, jamming Judas Priest and sporting a killer Saxon T-Shirt! Just brilliant.

4. Revenge
Coralie Fargeat's dark, but satisfying tale of violent retribution is a stylishly constructed, viscerally executed middle finger to toxic masculinity. A massively entertaining horror movie hitched onto a classic revenge template.

5. Kong: Skull Island
If you know me even slightly then you will know of my unhealthy fondness and heroic tolerance for the giant-creature-runs-amok genre and Kong: Skull Island ticks all my boxes. Jordan Vogts-Roberts gives us Apocalypse Now with a giant gorilla.  Helicopters get thrown around like water balloons, there's a boatload of napalm explosions and a slo-mo Stooges training montage. In other words, it’s got everything and Vogts-Roberts makes it look cooler than ten Fonzies.  Famously derided by the likes of Honest Trailers, the criticism feels a lot like snobbery from people not willing to get on board with a b-movie dressed up as a blockbuster (see also: Pacific Rim). I hope I don't have to defend this movie for years to come, but if I must, then I will defend it ferociously. Kong: Skull Island is cinema as pure fun, and what fun it is.

6. Logan
James Mangold's gritty, layered western is the violent, untethered take on Wolverine we've always longed for. It's a slice and dice action movie stitched into a melancholy rumination on age and responsibility. Patrick Stewart gives us the most complex Charles Xavier yet – confused and irritable, kind and parental, but inadvertently a weapon of mass destruction.  Jackman has never been better. He plays Wolverine deflated and clapped out and dealing with mortality. Repeated viewings make Logan even more rewarding.

7. The Belko Experiment
The ultimate toxic work environment sees the employees of the Belko Corporation forced to murder each other in a deadly game of survival. To be the last person standing is the only way to win. As upper management try to justify murder in the same way they might justify a restructure, it's homicide as corporate pragmatism. Greg McLean slathers on the gore and Belko puts its mangled hand up as one 2017s best horror movies.

8. Thor: Ragnarok / Guardians of the Galaxy 2
Cheating a bit here and counting both of Marvel's 2017 big guns as one. Both Taika Waititi and James Gunn's movies (star) lord it up in outer space and run hog wild with the kind of berzerk imagination and universe design that could fill ten movies. Each one reminding me of an updated Flash Gordon in its own different way. Stunning to look at and individual enough to bring a freshness to the tried and tested Marvel formula.

9. Get Out
Jordan Peele's meet-the-parents horror yarn spirals from social awkwardness into bodysnatch nightmare. It felt original and intriguing and combined with an oddball, strangely off kilter vibe to transcend the hype.

10. Hounds of Love
Ben Young's simultaneously magnetic and repellent debut combined stylish visuals with an ugly subject matter, as a young girl is kidnapped and tortured by a deranged suburban couple. Although undeniably nasty, Hounds of Love is more than just an exploitation film. There is a complexity and depth to the characters that belies the sordid premise, as we explore the strange power dynamics at work. With a trio of dynamite performances from Emma Booth, Ashleigh Cummings and Stephen Curry it is an uncomfortable yet riveting watch.

Bonus film. The Florida Project
Because I only just saw it and loved it but can't figure out where it fits in the Top 10 yet. Sean Baker's absorbing, marvellously acted character piece contrasts the disparity between ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’, and those that live in poverty just down the street. It's got a lot of heart and the ability to gut punch you at a moment's notice.

The Other Best Movies of 2017
Ben Wheatley's Boston set (yet Brighton filmed) Free Fire was very enjoyable, as was Astron 6's Stuart Gordon and John Carpenter love letter The Void. I thought Jeremy Rush's Netflix getaway driver movie Wheelman with Frank Grillo, was better than Edgar Wright's more popular getaway driver film, and Mike Mills’ Beginners follow up, 20th Century Women was heart-warming and Linklater-y in its characterisation, with added punk content.

Worst movies of 2017

The Meyerowitz Stories
Noah Baumbach's uncharacteristically dreadful tale of a New York artist's dysfunctional family. Adam Sandler's decent and restrained performance seemed to blind most people to the fact that this is simply about a bunch of hugely unlikeable characters who I rapidly stopped caring about.

Alien: Covenant
With Prometheus, Ridley Scott put his Alien legacy straight into the bin. With Covenant, he set that bin on fire. A creature that thrived in the darkness and mystery that surrounded it, placed directly in the glare of the harsh spotlight and given the origin story none of us wanted.  Cinema's greatest monster declawed and rendered inept by dreadful CGI.

Did not see, but wanted to see
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
The Big Sick
War For The Planet Of The Apes
The Disaster Artist

Saturday, 30 December 2017

BRIGHT (full review at The Reel Word)

In an alternate universe where orcs, elves, fairies and other mythical creatures exist, L.A.P.D. Officer Daryl Ward (Will Smith) returns to work after a shooting incident in which he was injured. He is partnered with Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton), the departments first and only orc police officer. Jakoby is unpopular across the board. His fellow officers despise him for his difference and his own people hate him because he is unblooded and thus not affiliated with any orc clan.

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IMDB: Bright

Thursday, 14 December 2017

STAR WARS : THE LAST JEDI (full review at The Reel Word)

After the events of The Force Awakens the Resistance is on the run. Pursued with merciless intent by the First Order, and unable to escape their tracking systems. In a last ditch attempt to save the waning Resistance fleet, Finn (John Boyega), Rose (Kellie Marie Tran) and BB-8 set off in search of a hacker who can disable the First Order’s hyperspace tracking device. All the while, far across the galaxy, Rey (Daisy Ridley) looks to Luke Skywalker for guidance and teaching as her force powers become unleashed, preparing to either recruit Luke in the fight against the First Order, or confront Kylo Ren on her own.

Read the full article at The Reel Word website:

IMDB: Star Wars The Last Jedi