Tuesday, 30 March 2021

EMBRYO (EMBRIÓN) (full review at Screen Realm)

Evelyn (Romina Perazzo) and Kevin (Domingo Guzmán) are on a camping trip to the infamous Snowdevil Mountain, a notorious hotspot for extra-terrestrial activity and U.F.O. sightings. During the night Evelyn is lured from the tent by a mysterious sound and is attacked and impregnated by an alien entity.

Kevin rushes Evelyn to the local hospital, where they discover she has developed a taste for human flesh and the alien creature inside her is insatiably hungry.

Read the full review at Screen Realm:

IMDB: Embryo

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

COME TRUE (full review at Screen Realm)

Come True is a sci-fi horror movie and the second feature from writer / director Anthony Scott Burns.

Sarah (Julia Sarah Stone) is experiencing a hard time at home. Unable to sleep at her house, she alternates between a friends house and sleeping rough in a playground, returning home only to shower and collect her things for the day ahead. When she learns of a local sleep study she leaps at the chance to be a part of it. All she has to do is turn up at night and be monitored sleeping and so it seems to be the ideal solution to her predicament.

The purpose of the study is withheld from Sarah by research assistants Riff (aka Jeremy) (Landon Liboiron) and Anita (Carlee Ryski) and head scientist Dr Meyer (Christopher Heatherington). But as Sarah spends more nights at the experiment she beings to experience terrifying and visceral nightmares. It soon becomes apparent that all the participants in the study are collectively dreaming about a shadowy, glow-eyed figure.

Read the full review at Screen Realm:

IMDB: Come True

Friday, 12 March 2021

I DON'T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE (full article at The Guardian Australia)

Ruth (Melanie Lynskey) is frustrated by the selfish and inconsiderate actions of other people. From exhaust-belching SUVs, to rude supermarket patrons, to the generally ill-mannered. She is bothered by things that in isolation might seem slight, perhaps even inconsequential, but they slowly congeal, amassing into a huge, morale-sapping void. With no single point of focus at which to direct her anger, the only possible route for Ruth’s frustration is for it to sit and simmer, until such a point as something causes it to boil over.

That boiling point comes when Ruth’s house is robbed. Her laptop and grandmother’s silverware is stolen and the police action on the matter is limited to the creation of a case number and the suggestion Ruth herself is at fault. Even when presented with an avenue for investigation, the law is hamstrung by its own listless investigative process. Ruth is made acutely aware she is the only one who cares.

Read the full review at The Guardian Australia:

IMDB: I Don't Feel At Home In This World Anymore




Wednesday, 10 February 2021

SPACE SWEEPERS (SEUNGRIHO) (full review at Screen Realm)

Space Sweepers (Seungriho) is a South Korean sci-fi adventure, and the fourth feature from director Jo Sung-hee.

In 2092 the Earth is dying. The planet is on its last legs, decaying and polluted and abandoned (by the wealthy at least) for an orbiting habitat, built by the ruling UTS Corporation. Those left behind in the murk and the ash are the poor and lower classes.

Tae-ho (Song Joong-ki) works aboard salvage ship The Victory, with his fellow crew members Tiger Park (Jin Seon-kyu), humanoid robot Bubs (Yoo Hae-jin) and the hard-as-nails Captain Jang (Kim Tae-ri). They operate as a clean-up crew, intercepting space junk, to prevent damage to the satellite utopia above the planet. Think: The Guardians of the Galaxy, if they were super into recycling.

Things are not as utopian as they present, however. The Victory’s missions to retrieve and salvage cosmic detritus are heroic, but not well paid. Invariably they accrue fines and wrack up debt and find themselves deeper in the hole than when they started.

Read the full review at Screen Realm:

IMDB: Space Sweepers (Seungriho)

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

THE DETECTORISTS (full article at The Guardian Australia)

Who would have thought a sitcom about a metal detecting club would be one of the most heart-warming shows on TV? On paper it does, admittedly, sound like a bit of a hard sell. But scratch the surface of idiosyncratically framed comedy The Detectorists and you’ll find warmth and a wonderful cast of characters that elevate it to something quite special.

Written and directed by Mackenzie Crook, probably best known as the gormless Gareth in the UK Office or as wooden eyed cutthroat, Ragetti, in Pirates of the Caribbean, The Detectorists ran on BBC 4 from 2014 to 2017. It won a BAFTA and is certainly popular, but it didn’t really catch on outside the UK and it truly deserves to. Each short season, and indeed each episode, is an utterly joyful, perfectly calibrated good mood.

Read the full review at The Guardian Australia:

IMDB: The Detectorists

Saturday, 16 January 2021

HUNTED (full review at Screen Realm)

Hunted is a woodland survival horror written and directed by Vincent Paronnaud, co-director of the Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominated animation Persepolis.

Eve (Lucie Debay) is out for the night, taking a break from her boyfriend and, conveniently, leaving her phone at home. She meets a man known only as The Guy (Arieh Worthalter), who along with his partner known only as The Accomplice (Ciarán O'Brien), kidnap and stow
Eve in the boot of their car. En-route to their destination they become involved in a bizarre car crash, leading to Eve’s escape and the killer’s pursuit through the dark and unforgiving forest. 


Read the full review at Screen Realm:

IMDB: Hunted

Sunday, 3 January 2021


Well, you don’t need me to tell you about why 2020 was a strange year, do you?  I barely set foot in a cinema all year, but thanks to Melbourne’s extended lockdown, I did watch a heroic amount of movies at home. As such, my favourite first time watches from this year were actually movies from the past couple of years that I somehow missed out on, so I’ve added a separate section for non-2020 bangers.

If you’re curious as to why the Top 10 features movies not listed as 2020 on IMDB, it’s because it is based on Australian release dates and we got movies like Uncut Gems and The Peanut Butter Falcon much later than everywhere else.

Onward then, to my review of 2020.

Top 10 Movies of 2020

1. Palm Springs
The tricky thing about telling you why I loved Palm Springs so much is in avoiding spoilers. There’s a science fiction element to the plot that reminds me, in terms of the impressive way it’s handled, of the excellent Mark Duplass and Elizabeth Moss movie The One I Love (2014). Otherwise, Andy Samberg and Christina Milioti have charisma to burn and JK Simmons is always great value. Boiling Palm Springs right down to the basics – it is clever, fun and makes you feel like a million dollars.

2. Uncut Gems
Miraculously, the Safdie Bothers managed to turn Adam Sandler’s terminally irritating personality to their complete advantage. Stress levels are in the red zone for the full run time, as New York jewellery dealer Howard Ratner makes a series of bad decisions. As he starts spiralling, we’re right there, spiralling with him. Tense and anxiety provoking, Uncut Gems is a fraught watch but a very worthwhile one.

3. Underwater
I mean, I know it’s a fool’s errand to complain about opinions on the internet, but it seems like there are a lot of folk out there crapping on about how much they love genre movies and when a great one like Underwater comes along (or Overlord from last year) all they can do is complain about it being cliché or predictable. For the record, Underwater is excellent. It has a great cast including Kristen Stewart, John Gallagher Jr, Vincent Cassel and the very underrated Jessica Henwick. And it hits the ground running. You have no time to get comfortable before Underwater throws you right in the deep end, as it were. The action does get a little lost to the deep sea murk at times and the Cthulhu angle comes across like the afterthought it clearly was, but that’s minor stuff. If you dig a rampaging sea beast movie, Underwater is hell of a lot of fun.

4. 1917
The horror of the trenches looms large in Sam Mendes’ terrific one take, World War I, men-on-a-mission movie, as two soldiers set off on on a race against time to deliver orders and prevent a massacre. Somehow, 1917 manages to be both sobering and adrenalin fuelled at the same time. Exciting, thrilling and reflective of a terrible reality.

5. Sound Of Metal
I’m sure many of us who have spent a considerable amount of time in the presence of bands that make a right noisy racket, share the fear of hearing damage, perpetually nagging us via tinnitus that never quite goes away. This fear is brought to life in Sound Of Metal, as noise band drummer Ruben (Riz Ahmed) struggles with a sudden and rapid loss of hearing, forcing him to completely reassess his life. Aside from being a totally engrossing story, it’s fun playing spot-the punk-shirt, as Ruben sports Youth Of Today, Rudimentary Peni, Einstürzende Neubauten and GISM shirts!

6. The Peanut Butter Falcon
A charming and funny road movie as Zak, a young man with Down Syndrome, escapes his care home and takes off in search of his wrestling hero The Saltwater Redneck. He meets Tyler along the way, himself on the run from some local fishermen, and the two take to the backroads, inlets and the open seas in order to realise Zak’s dream. The Peanut Butter Falcon is utterly dedicated to making you feel good, and while Shia Lebeouf’s recent off screen behaviour casts a bit of a shadow over it now, it still can’t take anything away from this delightful, spirit lifting adventure.

7.  White Lie
A movie about a girl faking cancer is probably a hard sell to a lot of folk, but what makes White Lie so good is the fascinating anatomy of the lie. All the deception and lies within lies that Katie has to keep in motion satisfy some deep, morbid audience curiosity. It’s a dark story, as you can guess, but a thoroughly compelling one thanks to the same stratospheric anxiety levels that Uncut Gems traded on.

8. The Platform
Unsubtle, but no less entertaining, Spanish class-war parable about a mysterious prison-like institution where food is delivered daily, all at once, via the titular platform. Those at the top eat decadently, while those at the bottom receive nothing. You see what I mean about the subtlety? It’s dark and dingy and bloody and reminded me quite a bit of Vincenzo Natali’s Cube (1997).

9. Becky
Enjoyable revenge flick, as angry teenager Becky (LuLu Wilson), takes bloody, Home Alone-style retribution on Neo-Nazi Kevin James and his criminal gang, who are holding her family hostage. Becky does exactly what it says on the tin, and maintains a mean streak that ensures it never gets silly.

10.  Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
Turns out DC can make an enjoyable movie after all (despite that wretched title). Birds of Prey is vastly better than every one of the (non-Batman) DC Universe movies. The first two thirds of the film are super fun, pinned together by Margot Robbie’s unrelenting charisma and some truly excellent fight scenes. A tepid ending knocks some of the wind out of its sails, but can’t undo the genuinely amusing good times that preceded it.

Honourable mentions:

Remi Weekes’ His House was a thought provoking and clever examination of grief and tragedy, framed as a haunted house movie, and it was this close to making the Top Ten. On Shudder, Anything For Jackson also dealt with grief and trauma, taking a dark and perversely comic approach to bargaining with Satan.

French actioner Lost Bullet crept onto Netflix without much fuss or fanfare and impressed me a great deal with its high speed vehicular mayhem. While John Hyams’ effective cat and mouse thriller Alone started off in the vein of Spielberg’s Duel before taking a right angle into psycho-in-the-woods territory.

Leigh Wannell’s Invisible Man had a swiss cheese plot that crumbled at the sight of a logical thought, but was still very enjoyable in spite of it. And John Travolta went off his rocker in Fred Durst’s universally reviled The Fanatic, which I thought was quite good. By accident or design, it can’t decide who we should root for, so it stays interesting right to the end. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it gets rediscovered in a few years.

Finally, slow burn Russian sci-fi Sputnik was a cautionary tale against picking up alien parasites, and Glenn Danzig’s Verotika was so utterly bizarre and borderline incompetent that I can honestly say I have never seen anything like it.

2020 Vision: favourite first time watches

The Eyes Of My Mother (2016)
The Eyes Of My Mother puts you in the shoes of a killer as it rummages around the crevices of your brain for your darkest predictions, before putting them right up on screen in stunning monochrome. The imagery is horrifying and exquisite, as Nicholas Pesce delivers a movie that is extremely dark and messed up. It won’t be for everyone, but for my money, The Eyes Of My Mother is quite brilliant and one of this century’s best horror movies.

First Reformed (2017)
Between the brutal aspect ratio and static camera work lies possibly the most pessimistic movie ever filmed. Paul Schrader delivers Existential Dread: The Movie and Ethan Hawke is magnificent as a priest losing faith in his religion, the church and humanity. In the immortal words of Jeff Lebowski, “this is a bummer, man”. But it's a five star bummer. Simply put, an incredible film.

Thoroughbreds (2017)
Four great central performances (including a pre-Queen’s Gambit Anya Taylor-Joy and Anton Yelchin in one of his final roles) plus some very effective direction, lead this capitalist nightmare to the heartwarming conclusion that casual psychopathy is as prevalent among the wealthy as hedge funds and country clubs. Thoroughbreds' dark sensibility is right up my street and I liked this very much.

The Nightingale (2018)

The Nightingale is a challenging viewing experience. It's neither the cerebral historic pondering that the festival crowds mistook it for, nor is it the scary horror ride that The Babadook fans hankered after. Instead, it's a harrowing examination of a life lived during Australia's shameful past. It is a boldly uncommercial movie from Jennifer Kent, a filmmaker feted by Hollywood after the success of her debut. The criticism of The Nightingale's brutality is understandable. The violence committed toward Clare and others is upsetting and hard to watch, but is based on real atrocities and Kent does not shy away from it. It is the nature of a film like The Nightingale to agitate because it asks the uncomfortable questions. The Nightingale is a raw nerve and it's going to make people twitch.

Apollo 11 (2019)
Incredible documentary on the Apollo 11 mission, told with newly discovered, previously unseen footage from the time. There’s no narration or voiceover or anything like that, and there really is no need for one. The stunning footage speaks for itself. Absolutely essential viewing.  

Worst of 2020

My Worst Of list reads like several Best Of lists I've already seen. As ever, I have my eye on the zeitgeist and my finger on the pulse:

Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse delighted critics and the internet, but left me utterly bored. It looked nice but left me feeling like I’d just watched a terrible school play.

Spike Lee’s Da Five Bloods disappointed with a cliché ridden plot, frustrating deus ex machina and lack of believability in the core friendships.

My tolerance for Charlie Kauffman reached its limit with I’m Thinking Of Ending Things. Pretentious and inscrutable in the worst possible ways. Instead of keeping my interest, it got on my every last nerve.

Netflix’s The Devil All The Time was 138 minutes of misery porn with a crap voiceover.

Tenet felt like it was deliberately withholding its plot so the finale was completely without consequence, because I barely knew what the stakes were. To top it all off, it’s grossly smug and pleased with itself.


So that's it for another year. A weird one and no mistake. But despite it all, I am grateful to have been be able to do some writing for the fine folks at Screen Realm, Scream Horror Magazine and, for the first time, The Guardian Australia.  

See you in 2021!