1/21/17

ST. VINCENT - REVIEW


It's a shame that Bill Murray was ignored at the Oscars for his performance in St. Vincent, the 2014 film about an ageing, grumpy, chain-smoking slob who becomes the unlikely babysitter of his new neighbour's young son.

While on paper it may sound like just another Gran Torino, that movie was much less clever and well acted than this comedy which doesn't sugar-coat anything but still manages to have some genuinely funny but also touching moments. As we see Vietnam war veteran Vincent (Murray), change from a moody, down-and-out alcoholic to a "Saint" of sorts, in the eyes of young Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) at least, nothing is forced or random and the tearjerker ending is earned. As we learn more and more about Vincent's troubled past, we understand his daily frustrations better and sympathise with him, even when he's being unreasonable or rude. As for his neighbour Maggie Bronstein (Melissa McCarthy), the film paints her as a bit of a deadbeat mother early on but, like with Vincent, the more we learn about her, the more we feel for her tough situation.

St. Vincent skilfully takes a bunch of characters you would never expect to get along and shows, without it coming off as phoney, that if some people were made to get to know each other better, then they could possibly form unlikely yet real friendships and help each other out. There are tough times for these characters but the film still manages to leave you on an upbeat note. It's refreshing to see Melissa McCarthy in a less cartoonish role and she effortlessly reveals herself to be a talented dramatic actress, Bill Murray is excellent of course and Naomi Watts doesn't hold anything back as the Eastern European pregnant prostitute who visits Vincent regularly. Chris O'Dowd and Terrence Howard both pop up in supporting roles and they do a great job also.

If you enjoy bittersweet comedies like Little Miss Sunshine or World's Greatest Dad then St. Vincent should be a good bet. Solid performances by a very likeable cast lead a film with plenty of heart and a very well written, moving and funny script underneath it all.

Recommended.

1/20/17

MY TOP 25 BEST FILMS OF 2016

Time once more to look back at another year and figure out what our favourite movies were! 

2016 may have been the most disappointing cinematic year in a while but let's be positive... for now.

Here are my Top 25 Best Films Of 2016.

Feel free to share your favourites in the comments!

25
THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER'S WAR


While an inferior, extremely derivative sequel in which Snow White is mysteriously absent, The Huntsman: Winter's War was a fun blockbuster with lots of creative visual effects and a likeable cast. Completely unnecessary, somewhat messy yet enjoyable.

24
THE MONKEY KING 2


This sequel may not have starred Donnie Yen but fans of the timeless Journey To The West story should have had fun with The Monkey King 2 regardless. A refreshing alternative to Hollywood blockbusters, this one starred Gong Li as an evil witch and it was very entertaining.

23
DEADPOOL


Certainly one of the most overrated films of 2016, Deadpool was still a fun movie which showed that superhero flicks didn't need to be family-friendly and probably shouldn't. Ryan Reynolds has a hell of a great time in the title role and there's enough silly jokes and action to keep you entertained. 

22
KUNG FU PANDA 3


Some liked Kung Fu Panda 3 more than others and although it's, arguably, the lesser film in the trilogy, it keeps that charm and colourful animation the others boasted. Great voice cast, lots of action, a more personal story with an intimidating new villain, it's all good. 

21
JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK


This relatively low-key sequel to Jack Reacher was just as tough and tense as the original and, even if it lacked some stand-out action sequences and a memorable villain, the combined badassness of Tom Cruise and Cobie Smulders made it worth checking out.

20
BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE


Its decision to include a Batgirl-centric prologue may have made Batman: The Killing Joke the most unpopular Batman adaptation since... Batman V Superman but fans of the iconic graphic novel should still find plenty to enjoy here from the terrific voice cast to the brutal aspect of the story itself.

19
MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN


Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children may not have offered too many surprises and its time-travel plot was hard to follow at times but it was still a visual treat with a show-stealing Samuel L. Jackson as the sharp-toothed villain, lots of freaky monsters and some cool stop-motion animation.

18
X-MEN: APOCALYPSE


We all feared the worst for X-Men: Apocalypse after pictures of Oscar Isaac in costume were first released. Luckily, this was a much better film than we expected. Lots of big, destructive action sequences, lots of X-Men, one excellent Wolverine cameo and the best use of Quicksilver so far.

17
STAR TREK BEYOND


Even without J.J. Abrams at the helm, Star Trek Beyond still delivered plenty of what we all enjoyed in the last two movies: impressive space-set action sequences and our favourite characters doing all sorts of bold, nutty things. Maybe not the best in the trilogy but still a decent sequel.

16
CAFÉ SOCIETY


Café Society is not the best or most memorable Woody Allen film out there but it was still a well-told story about two characters at the brink of choosing one path or the other in their lives, sort of like in La La Land, and it was just as witty, stylish and clever as you'd expect.

15
BATMAN: BAD BLOOD


The third part in the animated Son Of Batman trilogy might have passed you by but Batman: Bad Blood was a worthy sequel which introduced Batwoman and gave Nightwing the tough responsibility of taking over for a Batman who is feared dead. Plus Damian Wayne is much less of a brat this time.

14
DOCTOR STRANGE


Marvel's post-Civil War attempt at another superhero blockbuster was definitely ambitious but it gave the Sorcerer Supreme a solid origin story thanks to a perfect Benedict Cumberbatch and some trippy visual effects. Doctor Strange was not flawless but it was a lot of fun.

13
DOG EAT DOG


It's unlikely you heard about Dog Eat Dog before its Netflix release but, whether you're a Nicolas Cage fan or not, it's well worth checking out. The off-beat thriller is surprisingly brutal at times but its dark sense of humour and a show-stealing Willem Dafoe balance things out nicely.

12 
BATMAN: RETURN OF THE CAPED CRUSADERS


The best animated Batman film of last year was easily this hilarious throwback to the 60's TV series with Adam West and Burt Ward coming back to voice Batman and Robin. Return Of The Caped Crusaders is not only very funny but its upbeat take on DC's grim superhero is a breath of fresh air.

11
PEE-WEE'S BIG HOLIDAY 


Many, many years in the making, Pee-wee's Big Holiday finally saw the light of day last year thanks to Paul Reubens' persistence, Judd Apatow and Netflix. Keeping the spirit of the two other movies very much intact, this was a fun, goofy adventure fans of Pee-wee Herman's must have loved.

10 - 1

COLLATERAL DAMAGE - REVIEW


From the director of The Fugitive comes Collateral Damage, an action thriller from 2002 starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a fireman who is out for revenge after his family is killed by terrorists.

The film was a flop at the box-office and that's not too surprising seeing as it was released only under a year after 9/11 and it's unlikely that everyone was already in the mood for this kind of movie. That said, this was a very decent, action-packed flick with an Arnold Schwarzenegger on top form. After the underwhelming (and very wacky) The 6th Day, Collateral Damage was a welcome return to good old-fashioned over-the-top action films, even if audiences hardly flocked to it and critics didn't exactly praise it. Apart from a few dodgy CGI effects, the film looks great and it's just good to see Arnie going around punching people in the face, throwing people off cliffs, setting fire to everything and bursting into rooms shouting and wielding a baseball bat.

There's not much more to this film except for a clever twist near the end but it's an enjoyable, straight-forward ride with a great supporting cast which includes John Turturro, Elias Koteas and John Leguizamo. Schwarzenegger himself delivers a genuinely solid, convincing performance, even if he does slip in a goofy one-liner in there and plays the most "MacGuyver" of all the firemen. The film isn't too shy to include a massive explosion in almost every scene or kill off major characters, which keeps things entertaining throughout. It's not too clear what the film is trying to say about the state of the world at that point, it's likely even the film itself doesn't know, but it doesn't need to: its goal was to be a punchy, mostly brainless actioner and it did that well.

Collateral Damage might not make most people's Top 5 when thinking about the best Arnold Schwarzenegger films around but, as an action thriller, it's silly and energetic enough to get the job done. This is a good old-fashioned action movie with a bittersweet modern edge.

Underrated.

1/18/17

BULWORTH - REVIEW


In 1998, Warren Beatty directed and starred in Bulworth, a political satire about a Senator who snaps and starts telling (or "rapping") the truth to people. A lack of sleep somehow leads him to South Central where he is taken in by Halle Berry's young activist Nina after a wild night out clubbing.

Through Senator Bulworth's out-of-control antics, Warren Beatty clearly tries to make a point about how neither Democrats or Republicans are honest to the people who elect them. As Bulworth's erratic behaviour shocks the media and the people in his inner circle, his popularity rises leaving his assistants confused and struggling to keep up with the changing tide. It's an interesting film to revisit especially after last year's US election as it brings up some interesting points still relevant today. The way in which those points are brought forward in the movie is messy, however, as we get to see Warren Beatty turn into the worst rapper in the world and embrace the African American community by basically turning into a buffoon. One can certainly see why Bulworth was somewhat controversial upon its release since the way in which it handles race relations is a bit too caricatural but it's obvious Beatty meant well and there are some genuinely sweet and funny moments.

The film feels a bit like a missed opportunity as we don't really get the full view of how a political candidate like Bulworth would impact his party or the country. At no point is his change of attire or his rapping seen as potentially mocking or stereotypical so when he eventually wins the vote, it's just not convincing. A subplot involving Bulworth hiring someone to kill him then wanting to call it off brings some welcome tension to the movie but it's a little too cartoonish to be believable. Needless to say that seeing Warren Beatty rapping all his lines is entertaining but it also gets old really fast and you wish that the character's new approach had evolved beyond just bad rapping. Oliver Platt is good in the film as one of Bulworth's assistants, Don Cheadle makes an intimidating drug dealer in the film's second half and there are fun cameos from Larry King and George Hamilton but it's Halle Berry who is most compelling as the troubled activist who catches the Senator's eye.

On paper, Bulworth sounds like it could have been another clever political satire like Wag The Dog but, as it stands, it's just a fun, if occasionally bizarre movie with Warren Beatty as his wackiest. It's unfortunately slightly underwritten but its message still comes through so it's worth a look.

Enjoyable, if flawed.

TASTIN'... MAMMA CHIA


I try a healthy drink for once: thank you Mamma Chia!

COOL SPOT (GEN) - RANT N' PLAY


I finally rant along and play some good old Cool Spot.

The most refreshing game around.

BEETLEJUICE (NES) - RANT N' PLAY


Time to give the Beetlejuice NES game another chance.

It's showtime!

1/16/17

LA LA LAND - REVIEW


After a year peppered with cinematic disappointments, the Academy quickly jumped on musical comedy La La Land hailing it as an Oscar favourite when it was released in late 2016. The film swept the Golden Globes and it looks set to win many more awards.

Emma Stone is Mia, an aspiring actress who spends her time working in a coffee shop and running to auditions. She meets jazz pianist Sebastian, whose dream it is to start his own jazz club, and they hit it off. As their respective dreams start going off track, so does their relationship. Director Damien Chazelle, who impressed a few years ago with the excellent, low-key drama Whiplash, this time tries his hand at an old-fashioned Hollywood musical complete with romance, tap-dancing and fancy sets, charming the pants out of everyone effortlessly. This is a stylish, gorgeous-looking movie packed with fantastic music, great performances and snappy writing. Even the casting of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling is inspired as their singing voices, which never go over-the-top Broadway-style, bring vulnerability to their characters, making them feel more like the underdogs they're meant to be.

Unlike The Artist, which payed homage to the silent era in cinema by trying to mimic the look and feel of old silent movies, La La Land takes a more modern approach and only occasionally indulges in direct stylistic throwback moments. In fact, it's when the film focuses on its characters and the story that it shines, any distraction from that falls completely flat. The opening sequence, while energetic, is just much too big and happy for no good reason making it come off as obnoxious. Mia singing in her apartment with characters we barely ever see again also doesn't feel entirely necessary and neither does the scene where Mia and Sebastian literally fly into space and dance among the stars. Luckily, the film is good enough to quickly make you forget about its lesser moments as some genuinely good song and dance numbers pop up and the bittersweet love story develops.

For all its fluff and the odd corny bit here and there, La La Land is the best new movie musical we've had in a while and that's definitely worth celebrating. The leads are irresistible, as is the music throughout, and what the film lacks in complexity and focus it makes up for in style and charm.

Endearing hit.

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