• Battle: Los Angeles

    Battle: Los Angeles

    A hoo-rah advert for the military, with lamentable dialogue, but its action and its aliens/alien tech are substantially better than its reputation might suggest.

  • 1408

    1408

    ★★★

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    Watchlist: Stephen King

    A Stephen King film about a terribly scary thing that's not really about the terribly scary thing. We've been here before.

    John Cusack's Mike Enslin, a jaded writer of top 10 scary places to visit type non-fiction (and a piece of decent fiction that survives only in dog-eared, long-lost, charity-shop purchase form), has seen it all. He's seen it all and doesn't care any more. He clads himself in an off-kilter get-up of short-sleeve Hawaiian shirt, black…

  • Ambulance

    Ambulance

    ★★★★

    CASH! CASHMERE! CRASH! Drone photography has been marshalled for genuine purpose: an adreno-meditation on human bonds and human bondage. This is Gnarly Auteurism.

  • S.W.A.T.

    S.W.A.T.

    ★★★

    The action is fun and kinetic. The dialogue is replete with stilted machismo, but the tone is light, and, yeah, fun. The story moves; it's well-paced. Some may say it's rather efficient Copaganda.

  • Secret Window

    Secret Window

    ★★★

    Watchlist: Stephen King

    Likeable, frequently laugh-out-loud central performance. Agreeable aesthetic. Less mysterious than it probably hopes to be; we know how this is going to go. That's perhaps partly in the writing, partly in the direction. Some intense moments--particularly a scene at the climax.

  • The Flu

    The Flu

    ★½

    There are the bones of something decent here. Unfortunately they're overcome by some of the worst instincts I've seen in a feature. Tonality is pulled in at least four directions: lighthearted soapiness, TV reenactment, stilted and super-serious politicking and palace intrigue, and overwrought emoting. The dubbing didn't help. Just give me the original sound with subtitles. It wasn't just the voice acting, it was the mixing (?) too. Jarring. Does it get human irrationality (partial, yes, OK) right? Yes, to…

  • The Last Tree

    The Last Tree

    ★★★½

    The Last Tree stitches together truly heart-wrenching adversity and moments and passages of serenity and beauty.

    I heard echoes of John Boorman, directly in the 'squeal' sequence, but also in the clash of, on one hand, the natural and maternal and free, and on the other, the unnatural/built and the cruel, oppressed, materialistic, and hypocritical.

    I felt that a little bit of judicious cutting/editing, with the flow of the entire piece in mind, might have given this a better overall flow. In saying that, maybe I'm too institutionalised by conventional narrative and pacing.

  • French Exit

    French Exit

    ★★★

    The screenplay does have its strengths: a dash of absurdism, unexplained elements, notes of mystery, flashes of humour. Yet, it also contains many moments that are slack, stagey (in the wrong way), overwritten, underdeveloped, and simply unnecessary. Film affords us opportunities for visual storytelling not available in novels--or on stage even. Forgetting that runs the risk of the film being overladen with superfluous dialogue.

    The mismatch between the script and the direction was also at times a weak point. At…

  • Windfall

    Windfall

    ★★★

    The oranges, man. The oranges.


    My favourite parts: the build up/first act (which I very much liked), and Jason Segel's fireside performance. Segel, playing against type (at least as far as I've seen), is very good here. The oranges. The oranges made me smile.

  • A Call to Spy

    A Call to Spy

    I'm fully supportive of demonstrating the diversity of opposition to the Nazis.

    It was a noteworthy choice to tell the story of a person with a disability/impairment too. I hope it's never forgotten how the Nazis treated people with disabilities. They liquidated them. T4.

    I think this might have worked better as a four-part, network-TV drama than a feature film. Pet peeve: A lot of the costumes in supposed Occupied France and Vichy France were spotless and undamaged. Flawless make-up…

  • Bath Time

    Bath Time

    There's a great little shot in this: the top half of the protagonist's face, thickly caked in a lilypad-green facemask, appears over the rim of the bath, like a vigilant frog. A little note of the absurd.

  • First Blood

    First Blood

    ★★★

    At its best in its first half. The soured optimism. The orange stuff. The loss of everything. Life just going on. The grey townscapes. The hailing sheriff. The lonely wanderer. The faded flag. The instant rejection. The free ride and the pushing. The rearview mirror. The undignified treatment. The sneers. The cells. The abuse. The flashbacks. The turned tables. The moto-clothesline and rural escape. The cliffhanger.