Movie Review: ALADDIN 2019 “Does Less with More”

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

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It’s fine…but only fine.

DISNEY’S REMAKE TREND
Disney’s current remake trend so far has largely just been “Hey, you liked this movie we made that you saw as a child-pay us to experience it again or have fond memories of it”. The trend has lead to mostly average watches like The Jungle Book and Cinderella, and some outright bad films like Beauty and the Beast, Alice in Wonderland and Dumbo. I will say the best of the remakes is easily Maleficent (of which we’re getting a sequel this year) because it did something so largely different and original compared to the film it remakes. My main issue with the remakes is that they either try to “fix” perfectly good movies like Beauty and the Beast or re-tell a fairly interesting story as a more basic set-up like Pete’s Dragon, as opposed to finding entirely new ideas for them (again, except Maleficent).

ALADDIN AS A WHOLE NEW THING
Aladdin ends up being one of the average watches, a movie that sometimes hits a few solid notes of the original and a few of its own-but largely feels somewhat forgettable, even as I write this 90 minutes having seen it. It pretty much feels like a 2 hour long “Remember the original you love so much?” advertisement. Or maybe a better analogy would be a miniature Will Smith Genie dancing on top of you DVD/Blu-Ray of Aladdin and getting his little footprints on the cover. Yeah, there’s a little bit more new and it feels like it’s lightly ruining a good film, but you just love the original more.

PERFORMANCES
Speaking of Will Smith, he was largely getting the most flack for replacing the iconic and late Robin Williams as the Genie and his blue CGI effect not being the most convincing. I’ll say the same thing I said about Alita’s eyes-it stops being a problem when you get into it. His performance is largely his own and different from the 1992 version, playing more as a life coach than the jolly giant of the original. He’s one of the better parts of the film, even if half of his highly animated movements don’t work and feel like poor imitations of the original’s (though some new visual gags do work). Aladdin in the film is…well he’s kind of the poster boy for the film in that he’s fine. Not terrible, not great-does really well in the stretch around A Whole New World…but does less with more opportunity. Some of the supporting players are fine: Hakim the main guard needed more screen time and Jasmine’s handmaiden Dalia is hilarious: a great addition. But Naomi Scott as Jasmine is the MVP on the acting side and the one true improvement in the film. Jasmine was my first childhood animated crush and she’s great in the original, but Naomi Scott’s version is more empowering (with a really great original song of her own) and holds just as many qualities I treasured in the original. I seriously hope Naomi gets bigger and better roles: Pakistani Ms Marvel, Poison Ivy or even a female James Bond would be great roles for her. But the weakest performance in the film is Jafar, from trailer one…he looked without menace or intimidation-which is 100% what happens in the film. On the script, Jafar is interesting as he’s an ex-thief like Aladdin and wants to make a militarised border state (I’ll get back to that)…but he’s one of the weakest looking villains in recent memory. I almost wish Benedict Cumberbatch or Tom Hiddleston had the role (and you could just making another parallel with the character) as the original Jafar was truly menacing. Abu and Iago have less screen time and personality (though it’s not all gone) and Carpet has a bit more too him.

QUICK ALLEGORICAL ASIDE
And before I go further, Jafar and Jasmine have a rather blatant Trump V.S Hillary allegory going…although there’s nothing clever done or even said with it. It just kind of says “Trump’s a prick…Hillary should’ve won”…and that’s all. Personally I now prefer the idea of Jafar as a Westerner who loves Agrabah and would like to use an old feud to rule it…because then it’s a Hitler allegory and that’s just as blatant-but with a bit more to say.

PACING
The most notable element of this film (which pretty much follows the original film with tiny variations) is the pacing differences. In the first 5 minutes of 1992’s Aladdin, we’ve had our intro and been introduced to Jafar and the Cave of Wonders (which isn’t as fascinating as the original) and Aladdin is still a minute away from introduction. In this film, Aladdin and Jasmine have met by the 5 minute mark (in the original-it took 17 minutes). Now you might think this is better pacing…but it’s not. 1992 Aladdin is 90 minutes, this one is 2 hours. This is because despite rushing various parts…they drag some others on top of their additions. It also takes away mood and atmosphere from some scenes (making some entire sequences and rather important plot points in the original, screenwriting coincidences in this version). I’m not saying the film needed to be shorter, but do more with its runtime than pad out to the next homage.

LESS WITH MORE
Unfortunately this is mostly as “Same as before, just not as good and more” case. Jafar only has one truly “ooo I hate that guy moment” (that contradicts his character and just feels like trying to copy the original), scenes of wonder and tension are rendered less so thanks to staging and action scenes not being as fluid and the scope/scale of the original’s is lost in almost every sense (With most of the sets and costumes never really making you think this is real).  Plus Genie’s rules get a bit of the Beauty and the Beast remake treatment in that they try to make it rather strict…but it just gets in the way of the drama and tension. And yes it copies the “Be yourself” message of the original…but it comes off a little bit weaker.

ALTERNATE PERSPECTIVE
I feel like Disney should’ve just made this film ENTIRELY about Jasmine. She’s the best character, the best acted, the one upgraded from the original-why not have her at the beginning sneaking around and seeing Jafar’s plans, meeting Aladdin from her perspective and giving her the main driving force. Hell, I’d make it so she ends up getting the Genie (Whom I might’ve cast a woman for in this role and have a Shantae homage). I just think it might’ve been better and allowed another female director (Preferably Kathryn Bigelow of The Hurt Locker or Lexi Alexander of Punisher Warzone) to take this project because Guy Ritchie doesn’t seem to be here.

IS GUY RITCHIE HERE?
Oh yeah…it’s a Guy Ritchie film…and the least stylistic of his works. I know people have somewhat gotten annoyed of his style in how he shoots/edits/structures a film, but there’s an energy in that that makes somewhat messy films like Revolver or Man from Uncle somewhat entertaining and like he’s trying. Here, his energy that would make the One Jump Ahead song really great is rendered rather stunted. Maybe it’s because Disney told him to calm down, or some CGI heavy scenes made him have to be restrained, maybe he wasn’t the best choice for a musical, or maybe he just wanted to try this. About the most interesting his filmmaking gets it a fairly elaborate edited one shot early in the film and about two scenes where he does his cut away from the main thing schtick. It honestly makes his voice rather quiet and relying more on his effects team as this is cinematographer Alan Stewart’s first major film in this position and he feels a little lagging in energy, but does create some great visuals in conjunction with the effects team and production design departments. Honestly, I know this will sound weird as I did a giant dissection on why it didn’t completely work…but I prefer Ritchie’s King Arthur film as it was a big bloated mess trying lots of new things. Hell, Aladdin might’ve been better if Ritchie was able to make it his usual crime comedy spin.

WHY NOT BORROW FROM THE STAGE SHOW? OR THE ORIGINAL TALE?
Most of this Aladdin feels like a stage show…which makes sense as Aladdin has been a popular one for years. I saw one in Brisbane recently and it was pretty good. Two changes I liked for the stage was establishing Jafar got his powers and information from a Snake God (awesome) and Aladdin had a street gang he was friends with instead of Abu (which added to the “Be Yourself” theme and allowed for multiple handmaidens to flirt with). Honestly, I don’t know WHY they didn’t copy this stuff as it adds more cool stuff, lets Guy Ritchie do his thing more and I KNOW they borrow the Genie’s human form and clothing from the show-so it’s silly to not have borrowed more. Hell, Disney could’ve tapped into the original Aladdin’s Chinese connection (As it took place in the Middle East and China) and have Aladdin played by a Chinese actor and get Disney more clout with the Chinese market they’re so keen to please. Instead the only new influence appears to be Bollywood…which doesn’t make that much sense as Aladdin is an Arabian/Chinese tale…not Indian, the cultures might be somewhat regionally close…but it’d be like saying Hinduism and Islam are similar faiths or Mayan and Aztec culture is the same. It either feels like Disney might try to get into the Indian market with this or Western filmmakers are making mistakes again. I’m not of Indian or Arabian descent (Though I do have Chinese ancestry if you can believe) so it’s not my place to say if it’s appropriative, but I wouldn’t argue if that was the case.

I HAD FUN
I wasn’t angry in this movie like I was with Beauty and the Beast, or bored like Pete’s Dragon. It’s about the same as The Jungle Book in that I enjoyed myself. Smith and Scott were great actors, the songs were fun (especially Jasmine’s new one), A Whole New World was the best part and just as magical as the original, Dalia (played by Nasim Pedrad) got the biggest laughs from me, a new dance sequence was a lot of fun, the effects were mostly great, the stunt and dance choreography/performers were excellent, the music (especially orchestral side) was great in even the adaptations and I just had fun with it. I’d recommend seeing it with someone who either really wants to see it, or who you know will love it. It’s fun, but when we talk about Aladdin-everyone will still think of the original and this will be less known than the 3rd animated film.

DISNEY’S BRAND GENIUS
I actually think Disney doesn’t care if you love or hate this film…because you’re still going to love Disney. If you love this film…then you’ll buy the soundtrack, the merch and see Disney’s next remakes while buying and watching the original Aladdin films. If you hated it…you’ll still watch and buy the originals if you haven’t seen them in a while, try to compare the trailer to the film and just talk about how great the original is. Disney wins, no matter what…unless everyone doesn’t go to see this film. And that’s not happened, it’s a big budget Disney film based on one of their most popular films with a popular actor and is coming out after people already saw/didn’t see Detective Pikachu and mature films like John Wick 3 and Brightburn are out. It’s probably the nostalgia trip and family audiences who’ll see this…I’m just hoping Godzilla: King of the Monsters will do well at the end of the month.

 

A CONTEMPLATIVE RETROSPECT ON 3 OF TYRONE BRUINSMA’S RECENT WORKS

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

So I kind of felt like getting a bunch of stuff out of my system of late regarding my work. For 3 years I’ve felt like I’ve not produced enough content, mostly failing to get stuff made and writing stuff I’ve not publish yet. But in recent months thanks to wonderful people, I feel like I’ll get my first mini-renaissance and I wanted to discuss the last truly good 3 things I published in hope I’ll be making more work soon.

And no these aren’t reviews, they’re just me giving introspection to my own work, but please check them out.

1. ROSE THE MYSTERIOUS ART PROFESSOR [Audio Drama – Writer]

This is by far the most popular/most viewed piece of media I’ve created, even though I’ll acknowledge that’s entirely off the back of its creator/voice actress Willow Wisteria who allowed me to write this for her (Thank you Willow). At time of writing, the video currently has over 120K views (which makes me happy) and reading all the comments about what I did script wise makes me happy. See, I liked doing this audio drama (or ASMR video) because I got to express a rather strange dream I had in tangible terms, give into a bit of populace wish fulfilment…and pull a horror twist because I’m not above The Twilight Zone. I had fun writing it, I was ecstatic that its been doing well, largely has a positive reception and Willow enjoyed making it herself. It’s probably the most recent production I’m most proud of and I owe it entirely to Willow for perfectly voicing the character. It’s kind of fun to use limited features in storytelling that still executes your strengths.

Please follow and support Willow
YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9M83ptOIL8vbto73sF7CMQ
TWITTER: @Willow_Wisteria

2. JEREMY NEALE – VIDEO [Music Video – Cinematographer]

This was a music video directed by the ever talented filmmaker Josiah McGarvie while I was in film school as our major assessment piece. Now pretty much full credits goes to Josiah, musician Jeremy Neale and the rest of the production team. Not gonna lie…I felt kind of perfunctory on this production as Josiah had everything planned out with Neale in production and post. The rest of the production crew handled props and needed elements; my main job was to make sure the camera was correct, the green screen was lit properly (because I’d shot previously on one and made mistakes so I could get it right for this one) and back up Josiah on his decisions. About the most I remember focusing on was the framing of the feet and agreeing with Josiah’s 4K output decision. I’m very happy with the project and I enjoyed working on it (although I wish I did more) and I think it’s a fun retro music video that we made fun with modern tech. Mostly this is probably the best quality product with my name attached in recent years, and the one where working under a good director taught me a lot. Thank you Josiah and Jeremy.

3. THE HERO [Short Animation – Writer]

Here’s another case of “This works so well because of someone else”, not because I’m self-deprecating…but because it’s true. Projects work because better people than me help make it (that’s how good work is done). Alien is great because it’s screenplay was visualised by Ridley Scott and H.R Geiger immensely well. In film, you hire people who know better than you-so they can do a better job in an area you aren’t best with (hence why David Fincher has never needed to write his own films outside of Alien 3). But all credit must be given to Dak n Jaxter the animator of this short  (which I originally pitched as a scene for a colleagues’ project that never went though) that seems a bit similar to that new Brightburn movie. I helped visualise this small idea in the context of a violent hero action beat from a somewhat found footage perspective, but Dak had the heavy effort of creating it all and did it superbly. You should look him up as my favourites of his are animations of the Let’s Drown Out webseries. Thank you Dak!

I’m still genuinely proud of these (as opposed to some of even earlier work that I had more input over-maybe that’s why) and I give gratitude to the people I worked with for teaching me, improving my work and giving me the drive to continue. With my upcoming slate in good hands, I feel confident my career can grow and I’m blessed to have people with me and supporting me.

Would love to hear your thoughts and I hope you enjoyed the works in question.

 

 

 

TOP 10 BEST FILMS OF 1980

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

Honorable Mentions:
-Airplane!
-Alligator
-Any Which Way You Can
-Caddyshack
-Cannibal Holocaust
-The Changeling
-Flash Gordon
-The Fog
-Friday the 13th
-Humanoids from the Deep
-Inferno
-Private Benjamin
-Ordinary People
-Superman 2/Superman 2: The Richard Donner Cut

10. MANIAC
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Trying to pick the number 10 horror spot on this list came down to a toss between Friday the 13th, Cannibal Holocaust and this. Do I give it to the memorable enough slasher turned horror franchise, thematically rich but rather nasty for no reason controversial masterpiece…or the psychologically nuanced one that actually holds up quite nicely. Maniac is the brain child of director William Lustig (Maniac Cop, Uncle Sam) and writer/actor Joe Spinell (The Godfather, Rocky, Taxi Driver) who plays the Maniac. The story follows the fairly complex deranged mind of a serial killer in New York in a story that never fully makes him sympathetic, but it does humanise him in a way this little exploitation slasher didn’t have to.  The closest comparison is if Leatherface and Ralph Fiennes’s Francis from Red Dragon (The original book being released a year after this film) were trying to make it work in New York. The film works as a trashy slasher, a tense horror film (with the bathroom scene the stand out), a psychological character piece with Spinell really giving it his all and Lustig shooting the hell out of it. The film was fairly controversial and polarising at the time, though today I think it would be held in higher regards as it had the cult notoriety for a very impressive 2013 remake with Elijah Wood. Unfortunately Spinell died in 1989 tragically and he really is amazing as the set piece horror show here. I highly recommend this wonderful little film.

9. RAGING BULL
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Yeah yeah cinephiles this would be higher in your book-but I’m not a parrot who will just spit out copy pasted lists. Raging Bull is great, it’s a classic-I just don’t have the same level of commitment I do for this film as I do for other films (especially Scorsese ones). Speaking of Scorsese, did you know he thought this would be the last film he’d ever make because of how shocking it was? That’s like the producers telling Spielberg on Jaws that he’d never work in this town again. The dark biopic about boxer Jake LaMotta where Robert De Niro gives one of his best performances alongside Joe Pecsi (Goodfellas) and Cathy Moriarty (Kindergarten Cop). The editing by Thelma Schoonmaker (The Departed, Goodfellas, The Wolf of Wall Street) is brilliant. The black and white cinematography by Michael Chapman (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Taxi Driver, The Fugitive) is iconic. And the brutality of the ring juxtaposed to the brutality at home is a great narrative theme. It’s just a film I wish there was more to.

8. THE BLUES BROTHERS
Movie poster with two of the main characters on the right-side of the image: They are both wearing black suits, hats, and sunglasses and facing forward. The man on the right is resting his arm on the shoulder of the man on the left. A police car is present on the left side of the image behind them. At the top of the image is the tagline, "They'll never get caught. They're on a mission from God." At the bottom of the poster is the title of the film, cast names, and production credits.
This is one of those “Childhood favourites I probably shouldn’t have watched as a child” films. The Blues Brothers stars legends John Belushi, Dan Akroyd, Carrie Fisher, James Brown, Ray Charles, John Candy (even Steven Spielberg cameos in this film) and more under John Landis (An American Werewolf in London) and is a riot of a film. It’s one of the funniest films that is the right balance between visceral comedy and rather subtle nuanced humor. The premise of two troublemaker musicians going on a mildly reckless “Mission from God” to get their band back together to get the money to save their orphanage is one that shouldn’t be this fun-but it is. From the amazing chases with practical stunts and destruction, to the great musical sequences and the brilliant chemistry between every character. It’s just a fun good time-plus giving Nazis some grief is really fun nowadays HAHA!

7. THE ELEPHANT MAN
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The story of The Elephant Man is one of those “Life is Stranger than Fiction” moments that was beautifully brought to life by uncredited producer Mel Brooks, director/writer David Lynch and the late great actor John Hurt. Lynch got this fairly unique project ins one of those great Hollywood stories of his own. After Eraserhead became a midnight movie hit, he met up with a friend of Mel Brooks and they recommended Lynch to Brooks (whose name was mostly kept off the film so people would not think was a comedy-but he was in charge). Brooks and other producers sat down to watch Eraserhead as they’d no idea who David Lynch was, so when they came out of the screening-Brooks ran up and hugged Lynch saying “You’re a mad man, I love you” and he was given the film. This is often regarded as Lynch’s most accessible film, being that it’s a period piece biographical drama with some surreal elements. The true story of John Merrick aka The Elephant Man is a tragic one that could’ve been a monster film, but Lynch treats his subject played by the amazing John Hurt (Alien, 1984) with respect. John Hurt’s performance is amazing: raw and powerful without devolving into Universal Monsters era cliché. Thankfully Hurt is bolstered by a great supporting cast including Anthony Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs) and Anne Bancroft (The Devils), along with the amazing make up effects by Christopher Rucker (Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, The Company of Wolves). Lynch’s unique and more restrained visuals and styles are brilliant shot by cinematographer Freddie Francis (Dune, Glory, Cape Fear and director of many Hammer Horror films) whose visuals capture a moody, but genuine feel in the amazing black and white film stock. The Elephant Man remains as Lynch’s most universal hit with audiences, critics and Oscar nominations (though it didn’t win any) so I highly recommend this to get into Lynch’s filmography.

6. THE BIG RED ONE
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In the current pantheon of classic war films there’s: Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, Saving Private Ryan, The Hurt Locker and a few other easily regarded ones. This however is one of those critically acclaimed war epics that’s been somewhat forgotten by cinema. From legendary director/writer Samuel Fuller whose career spans from 1936 to 1994 until his death in 1997, this film is one of the best examples of a war film that recognises wars are not just singular fights-but events that can continually inform and effect people’s lives. There’s a very deep discussion on the nature of war, violence and murder (and yes the Reconstruction is the superior version) that most war films don’t play with or as nuanced-while this makes it an upfront discussion. Visually astounding and epic for its relatively small budget-the film is a showcase in cinema as art and limitations as creativity. Starring legends like Lee Marvin (The Dirty Dozen), Mark Hamill (Star Wars) and Robert Carradine (Revenge of the Nerds)-the film also serves as an acting showcase that easily outpaces many modern war tales. I highly recommend you try and find this as it serves as one of the best underrated classic films.

5. HEAVEN’S GATE
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Heaven’s Gate is one of the craziest production stories and tragedies in Hollywood. Fresh off his odd success with The Deer Hunter, writer/director Michael Cimino (Cimino already having written Silent Running and Magnum Force) was offered to make anything he wanted and so he set out to make his grant Western epic…and it failed. Heaven’s Gate is still remembered as one of the greatest financial and critical failings of all time in cinema. Its budget was ballooned, Cimino made insane demands and wait times (To the point actor John Hurt left the production to do Elephant Man in London and came back with plenty of time for his role) and everything from injured horses, to waiting for clouds to moving buildings apart were done for this film. The film had an insane runtime even with extraneous editing of over 1 million feet of film, the studio was worried, critics and bad press swarmed it. The result was a box office flop, critically mauled film that killed its studio and the big auteur director system in Hollywood. Cimino would be badly scarred from this: his name run through the mud as a crazy director, he’d direct 4 more films to complete failure (Bar the cult status from Year of the Dragon) and would pass away in 2016.

However, Heaven’s Gate went over a mass-reappraisal. Even though people immediately tried to say Cimino’s Deer Hunter sucked when this came out, Cimino and his films were appreciated by many great filmmakers and collaborators, making his 2016 death one of immense tragedy. Heaven’s Gate is one of the great western epics, sporting a large cast (most notably John Hurt, Jeff Bridges and Christopher Walken), has some incredible visuals thanks to cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond (Deliverance, The Long Goodbye, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Deer Hunter, Blow Out, The Ghost and the Darkness), and some great scenes of comedy, drama, tension, action and humanity. The story and theme is what I find the strongest, being the story is about Americans hiring people to kill immigrants…can’t imagine why that might not have a potent story. It feels very much like an inverse sister film to Richard Donner’s Superman 2 years earlier. Superman: The Movie was virtually a positive story about fictional immigration in America with Superman as an example of positive immigration ideals, while Heaven’s Gate is the opposite. It’s a tragic reality of America’s adverse hatred towards immigrants that’s been there in history…and still is there today. Yes it might be a slog, but it’s an impactful epic that resonates so much-that I can’t help but love it.

4. KAGEMUSHA: THE SHADOW WARRIOR
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So…have you seen the trailer for this?

Because this is basically that…without the wuxia techniques, without Yimou Zhang’s auteur aesthetics and set in Japan. I actually looked around and couldn’t find any root inspiration for this idea of “Great lord needing a doppelganger” in Asian culture so I’d love to know how both came into existence. This was of course an Akira Kurosawa samurai film set during Japan’s Jidaigeki era in history (much like Kurosawa’s own Throne of Blood and Ran) and is AWESOME! A visually gorgeous piece of old fashioned filmmaking in the 80’s that proves to be an epic character drama. The Japanese performances are great, the visuals and war scenes top notch and its nuances surpass most other war stories. While I’ll always consider Ran Kurosawa’s masterpiece, this is still great.

3. ALTERED STATES
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Here’s one of my favourite horror films, one that’s very underrated and which you might only have seen mentioned if you saw Watchmojo’s video on Top 10 Body Horror films…because I can’t find it anymore. It’s a strange body horror experience with psychedelic images directed by Ken Russel (Director of the Oscar Winning Women in Love and the ultra-controversial The Devils), written by Paddy Chayefsky (Writer of Network, adapting his own novel), shot by Jordan Cronenweth (Director of Photography on Blade Runner), edited by Stuart Baird (editor of Superman, Lethal Weapon, Demolition Man, Casino Royale, Skyfall and director of Executive Decision) and stars William Hurt (A History of Violence, Vantage Point, Captain America: Civil War)…and it’s AWESOME! It’s pretty much the classic “Frankenstein experiments on himself” wherein a guy is try to relive past lives/experiences and ends up having the ability to revert to prior evolutionary stages. It’s wonderfully crafted, scary enough with a point and just this insane horror experience you absolutely should seek out.

2. STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
. This poster shows a montage of scenes from the movie. Dominating the background is the dark visage of Darth Vader; in the foreground, Luke Skywalker sits astride a tauntaun; Han Solo and Princess Leia gaze at each other while in a romantic embrace; Chewbacca, R 2-D 2, and C-3PO round out the montage.
Yeah, no surprise that this winds up on here. Often considered the best Star Wars film, one of the best sequels in film history and one of the best films/pieces of media ever made. I…don’t argue. The Empire Strikes Back is both a classic genre/mythological story and action film; while also being a subtly subversive take that continues the first Star Wars film’s basic yet mildly subversive take on classic fiction.

Actually, I want to pause because context needs to be made. Everyone’s still very divisive over The Last Jedi, even though The Last Jedi is just as subversive as The Empire Strikes Back. What’s the difference? Everyone grew up on The Empire Strikes back, so its subversions are seen as tradition. Whereas thanks to nostalgia, the internet providing weirdos with a platform and all schools of thought now being projected onto a film-The Last Jedi got treated as “disrespectful” while it was just doing a Dark Knight Returns or Logan. If The Empire Strike Back came out in the same environment, it likely would’ve been blasted for not having tons of action in the middle, Luke abandoning his training, his teacher being this funny little Muppet, the Vader twist and there being no real victory. Just wanted to put perspective and context for people who still think The Last Jedi is somehow the worst film ever or even the worst Star Wars.

Back to this film, Empire Strikes Back just works like gangbusters. Its opening act on Hoth presents us with one of the best sci-fi battles in a franchise that made them, some new cool Jedi stuff, great characters and amazing visuals. Then the 2nd act is a fun chase intercut with Luke training with Yoda wherein George Lucas shows his hippie spiritualism. And the 3rd act having the best lightsaber battle of the series (Yes more then Phantom Menace, Rogue One or Last Jedi). It’s just a great film with ever growing characters, a fascinating universe explored the right amount, the visuals and effects are astonishing, amazing score and the action scenes are great. George himself did not direct this film, instead that went to the late filmmaker/lecturer Irvin Kershner. Unfortunately The Empire Strikes Back would be Kershner’s main claim to fame as his other somewhat notable works were Eyes of Laura Mars, Never Say Never Again and Robocop 2. Everything else is history though, the film just works on all cylinders and if you’ve somehow not seen it-just go watch it now.

1. THE SHINING
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Yes, I pick the Stanley Kubrick horror masterpiece. About as shocking as when an Avengers movie makes money. While not well received at the time and Stephen King hates it to this day-it’s a cultural masterpiece for a reason. The brilliant direction and cinematography, outstanding performances (especially Jack Nicolson), founding of horror staples, intense score, and perfect tension and horror are all why we love this film…or is it?

See Stephen King’s distaste for this film and Kubrick’s really subtle sub-textual storytelling have lead to many examinations of the film (Including a really terrible “documentary essay” film called Room 237). Now while some will claim “Oh this film is Kubrick saying he made the Moon Landing footage” (If you’re a conspiracy theorist who ignores science, logic and history), the more accurate examinations are of how past horrors effect the modern day. The film has plenty of references to Native Americans (to the point they were slaughtered and the film sets the hotel on a Native American burial ground), Nazi/Roman imperial eagles, the murder of the prior family and even a character who angrily refers to the African American cook in the film as the N-word. So it’s a fairly basic idea…what does this have to do with the story and why it’s so horrifying to the point Stephen King would hate it. Spoilers, but here we go.

In Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining…there are no ghosts. Sounds really weird as Stephen King’s book fully says there are and this film is considered a classic haunting/ghost story, but there’s no ghosts. The film is a psychological horror about a family with past traumas being forced into a claustrophobic environments literally founded on past horrors eventually going mad. What’s the past trauma? Well, if you believe certain interpretations and factor into King’s book and his hatred of this film…Jack Torrance sexually abused Danny. Yes. That’s the really horrifying truth. The Shining is about a family who experienced this horrible thing, now forced to be together and driving them crazy. The few instances that draw on this is how severe the trauma is to the point Danny has this imaginary friend (because all the supernatural elements aren’t real) and sees horrifying visions. Jack’s story about “grabbing his arm” feels likes he’s playing it down (because why would you tell the real version to someone?) and the creepy delivery of “I wouldn’t touch a hair on his little head” starts to bring it close. Now what exactly did Jack do to Danny? Well in the 3rd act, when Wendy is running around she sees a man in a bear costume seemingly get up from giving a man fellatio. This is such a strange and out of place event…until we remember there’s a scene where Danny is right next to a giant teddy bear. Implication? In a fit of drunken rage or stupor…Jack forced his son Danny to perform fellatio and Wendy saw them…but she herself has repressed it-hence her actions in the film. The film is essentially about this family dealing with a repressed and horrible trauma, with the Overlook hotel’s dark past and claustrophobic environment the perfect catalyst to set off the horror.

See how that’s a LOT scarier than ghosts just messing with people? But why would King hate this? Well: Kubrick removed the explicit ghosts and actually made Jack a much darker character. In King’s book and miniseries adaptation, Jack truly loves Danny. This one makes Jack a real monster and his eventual spiral an eventuality, rather than chance for redemption. I know the sympathetic father who loves his son in death is touching…but the truly dark and warped hidden story is preferred. It makes me wonder how the upcoming Doctor Sleep starring Ewan McGregor (The Phantom Menace, Christopher Robin) and directed/written by Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Ouija: Origin of Evil, Gerald’s Game) will play out. Will they make it a subtle sequel to the original Shining (which came back thanks to Ready Player One) and have its supernatural elements be metaphors for Danny’s trauma? Or just make it a pure adaptation of the book due to the success of 2017’s It?

Who knows, but I hope my examination of the film explains why I think this is the best film of 1980, one of the best horror films of all time, why Stanley Kubrick is a master filmmaker and a film you absolutely must see.

Movie Review – AVENGERS: ENDGAME (SPOILER-FREE)

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

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After 11 years, 21 movies and around 20 Billion dollars at the box office later-Avengers Endgame arrives as the 22nd MCU film to follow up the monster hit Infinity War. And…it’s freaking awesome.

I’ll admit, Infinity War became my favourite MCU film largely thanks to the meshing of the better elements of the series, a complete story told unto itself, amazing actions scenes, wonderful characterisations, fantastic effects and Josh Brolin’s Thanos as the best villain of the series with the best arc. So I was hyped for Endgame (even before it had a name) because following up that ending was going to be fun. But, I was hesitant with how Marvel and the Russo Brothers would follow such a near perfect film. The trailers weren’t showing that much while Infinity War showed more, it had a 3 hour run time and was rumoured to feature a key element I liked, but wasn’t that crazy one-so I held reservations in case. But, I’m here to tell you that Avengers: Endgame might just be my new favourite film of the MCU and the best film so far this year.

In the most barebones, vague outline: The Avengers try to fix was Thanos has done and set out to do it. I don’t want to give away the specific means because no trailer spoiled it and only speculative reporting was correct. If you know, you know. If you don’t, I won’t tell. Needless to say: I think the story and the plot earned their 3 hour runtime largely due to the characters. See Marvel’s great weapon with the MCU is how they have characters interact and how the actors play them. Everyone does an amazing job in terms of emotional range, banter with each other and their own arcs. Heavyweights this time are Chris Evans as Captain America, Robert Downey Jnr as Iron Man, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye and Karen Gillan as Nebula especially with their arcs. Not saying anyone else is bad, just that it’s like comparing an A student to an A+ student. Thanos himself however was my main concern as Infinity War was entirely based around him, his arc and conflict. He’s not the centerpiece role here as much as the big bad guy again, he’s great-but his Infinity War portrayal was the better version. I will say this one last thing on the plot, the means of which the Avengers attempt to fix everything invites the usual swarm of nitpicking reviewers who will question every possible thing…all while forgetting that characters, story intent etc. So while I’m not saying the movie is dumb, I’m saying the filmmakers handle it as best they can and that it shouldn’t get in the way of the big picture. If you show up to this film with the intent of pulling a CinemaSins…stop.

In terms of its production quality, Endgame is pretty much the pinnacle of Marvel’s craftmanship. Their immense and amazing teams from directing, screenwriting, production design, music, sound, editing, visual effects, costume, make up-EVERYTHING is amazing and everyone who worked on this movie deserves the appropriate credit. You all did SO well.

But now onto the stuff I really want to talk about: this movie is a fan service smorgasbord. If you’ve jumped on board the MCU train at all, something will make you happen. Cameos galore, call backs and unresolved threads are completed and emotional beats land with a royal slam. It’s just great stuff in a story that develops with the right conflicts at the right times, with the right people. The movie makes you laugh, makes you cry, makes you FEEL and I have to admit-when the big 3 act showdown was about to kick off…I cried. Speaking off that final big battle (because we all know that’s how it was gonna go down) remember about a decade ago when movies of this scale ended in the most epic of showdowns? Avatar, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises etc would all try to end with the biggest fight? Lately, those haven’t happened as blockbuster films end on more personal final battles. Well this ending does the balance between the do and I loved it.

I’m personally a little conflicted on whether or not this or Infinity War is the superior film as Infinity War was itself a complete arc and Thanos was a great lead character, but Endgame gives the stronger emotional resonance with a stronger last act and the heroes that have been the center of this story get the spotlight.

I’ll just end with this. When we all lost Stan Lee, the world cried. The man’s works had touched us all in someway or another. I think with this is film, I wanted to say that whether people stay or go-the stories and emotions they left with us will last with us and beyond that. That’s what I came out of the theatre feeling. So I give this film my highest recommendation.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy the movie.

 

TOP 10 BEST FILMS OF 1981

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

Honorable Mentions:
-Chariots of Fire
-Clash of the Titans
-Dragonslayer
-Escape from New York
-For Your Eyes Only
-The Fox and the Hound
-Gallipoli
-Halloween 2
-The Howling
-Inseminoid
-The Omen 3
-On Golden Pond
-Reds
-Scanners
-Time Bandits

10. MY BLOODY VALENTINE
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This slasher is one of the best underrated ones of the era. Specifically in regards to the fixed re-release when the less than stellar 3D remake came out in 2009. My Bloody Valentine is a slasher that works and works wonders: a great set up, really phenomenal execution when you break it down and the right mix of horror, tragedy and fun. While its creative team didn’t go on to make anything more of note, this film just works like gangbusters. Its use of tension, visuals and kills are extremely inventive and add up to a gory fun time. Its original release had a lot of the gore cut out, but a new version released on DVD cuts back in all the gore and its amazing. And for those considering the 3D remake, don’t. It’s only somewhat good with the 3D, but it lacks a lot of the charm and do cliché changes to the story. I cannot recommend this more. Plus for all you  Valentine’s Day haters-here’s a killer you can relate to.

9. STRIPES
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You know there was that Family Guy joke about how long it takes this movie to get to the army. Watching the extended cut (2 hours) it only take about 20 minutes to get there, because we’re building the 2 main characters…like a proper comedy would. This is the thing that bothers me, people claim “oh the 80’s were the best” and then complain about their less frenetic pacing, character development and focus on cultural background. Stripes is funny, really funny thanks to director Ivan Reitman (Meatballs, Ghostbusters, Twins) and its stellar cast including Bill Murray (Groundhog Day), Harold Ramis (Ghostbusters), John Candy (Uncle Buck), Sean Young (Blade Runner), PJ Soles (The Devil’s Rejects) and Warren Oates (The Wild Bunch). The film’s human and humorous tone runs throughout and its characterisations are why I love this so much. Bill Murray as the main heartthrob scoundrel is rather endearing and better than some of the other 80’s comedy heroes. The rest of the cast add so much, even the characters not designed to be endearing, funny or that important. My personal favourite scenes are with the failing Captain (especially the mortar range), when the main duo go AWOL, the mud wrestling scene and the resonant underdog sequence. Although even small bits of them marching or guys flirting is great, plus the main theme and music in general by Elmer Bernstein (Animal House, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Magnificent Seven, The Ten Commandments, The Great Escape, Ghostbusters, The Black Cauldron) is near phenomenal. It’s a classic for a reason so check it out if you’ve not seen it in a while or haven’t.

8. THE EVIL DEAD
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This classic indie horror masterpiece has been discussed at length by the horror community. Between its near Lovecraftian horror background, slapstick era Three Stooges style of comedy, practical effects and Bruce Campbell’s Ash as an icon of horror/action hero cinema. Sam Raimi’s (along with many other’s) vision and passion makes The Evil Dead one of those horror films whose minor flaws are overlooked because the raw product works so well. A mix of terrifyingly and horrific scenes combined with an old school comedic self awareness that ultimately renders the film as the horror icon it is. The legacy of Evil Dead is so strong that despite the mild controversy (which made it a box office success) it ultimately made Raimi a director of many successes of Darkman, The Evil Dead franchise, the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man trilogy, his stylistic revival in Drag Me To Hell, his classic film love envisioned with Oz: the Great and the Powerful, and his production efforts on the likes of Don’t Breathe and Crawl. His raw talent and effort combined with a game cast and production team make this and all his other endeavours work. Every cinephile has seen this, so if you’ve not-now’s your chance.

Further Viewing:

7. OUTLAND
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So this is a Sci-Fi film that feels like it’s in the same universe as Alien, is basically a western and stars the original James Bond…WHY DOES NOBODY TALK ABOUT THIS!? Outland is one of the most underrated films I’ve seen around in the genre. The closest comparisons would be Moon if Han Solo was the lead. Sean Connery is great as a space cowboy with his clear arch of work over family, Peter Hyams (director of 2010, Timecop, The Relic) creates a lean and mean story with production design that rivals Blade Runner a year after. The score is perfect (the opening theme feeling close to Alien), the visual great, supporting cast do well-even if the film is just your 50’s Western in space.

6. AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON
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Without much competition, the best Werewolf movie of all time. Created by John Landis (director of Animal House, The Blues Brothers, Spies Like Us, Coming to America, Michael Jackson’s Thriller and whose ass of a son the industry should throw away) the film was considered simultaneously too funny and too scary for either genres by those involved. The film works as a horror film, a horror comedy, a fish out of water scenario and a fun monster movie. The opening act I think is really great, the characters work wonders and the various story developments and scares are perfectly well done. But of course this movie has one of the best werewolves and werewolf transformation scenes in history. The effects were handled by Rick baker who had a hand in everything from The Exorcist, Star Wars, Videodrome, Wolf, Ed Wood, Men in Black, Hellboy, Tropic Thunder, The Wolfman and Maleficent and they hold up so well today it’s a testament to practical effects. We also have another amazing score by Elmer Bernstein of Stripes and some truly amazing cinematography by Robert Paynter (The Mechanic, Superman 2, Little Shop of Horrors). The film holds it place in cinema as a horror classic for a reason and easily the best horror film of 1981.

5. DAS BOOT
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There should be a mass re-appraisal of Wolfgang Petersen and Hollywood should bring him back for their biggest and best films. As the director behind blockbuster classics like: Troy, The Perfect Storm, Air Force One, Outbreak and The Neverending Story (who even made a Batman V Superman film and Paprika remake) we really should bring him back. But when you’ve got a career track record like that and your best film is Das Boot-I’m sure he’s proud. Das Boot is one of the best war films in history, probably the best Submarine film and an absolute masterwork of filmmaking. Das Boot follows World War 2 German submarine operators and their emotional struggle in this war. It’s an epic war drama that Hollywood wasn’t doing as much in favor of smaller war film like Platoon, but it’s full force here. The acting is impeccable, the visuals captured by Jost Vacano (Robocop, Total Recall, Starship Troopers) are astounding, but its the sound design that deserves the most praise. Das Boot’s sound design was pretty much all done in post due to the camera and sound gear making it impossible on set. Usually sound done entirely in post is done for animation, but to need it for live action and it being seamless is a testament to sound teams. It’s a marvel of film, an undisputed classic and something any film buff needs to see.

Further Viewing:

4. EXCALIBUR
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Excalibur is one of my favourite pieces of cinema on a purely visual level, feeling like the closest to a mature version of Legend-while also being my favourite piece of Arthurian legend on film. The film was handled by the divisive John Boorman (Good: Deliverance. Bad: Zardoz) and is one of the visually best films of the 80’s-rivalling Legend, Blade Runner, Manhunter, Akira and The Abyss. Most of that’s due to cinematographer Alex Thomson (Legend, Labyrinth, Leviathan, Alien 3, Cliffhanger, Demolition Man, Executive Decision, Hamlet) who was nominated for an Oscar for this film-crafting beautiful and atmospheric shots with lighting, angles to build a tone and mood perfectly. Seriously, I mostly love this film for its visuals and atmosphere as they carry this film immensely. It’s music by Trevor Jones (Thirteen Days, Cliffhanger, The Last of the Mohicans, Arachnophobia, Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal) is hauntingly beautiful with an epic fantasy feel. Its story follows a darkened and matured version of the classic Arthurian tale and I appreciate it for that, with great supporting performances by Patrick Stewart (X-Men), Gabriel Byrne (Hereditary), Nicol Williamson (Spawn), Helen Mirren (Red) and Liam Neeson (Taken) even if our Arthur is kind of a bore. I just love this film so much, and it disappoints me I saw less interesting Arthurian films before discovering this one. You absolutley need to see this.

3. THIEF
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Ah, the feature directorial debut of one of my favourite directors-Michael Mann. Having success off his work on the Miami Vice tv series, Thief was a critically successful box office sleeper that nonetheless showed his talent. Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer (Pirates of the Caribbean) the film is one of the true 80’s heist films-with the post modern neo noir atmosphere matches with neon visuals and a synth-scape score to match. The closest modern equivalent is Drive as both films are neo-noir thrillers that lean as dramas about violent men trying to go clean, getting involved in a heist, a friend’s murder at a car place and the neo noir style. James Caan (The Godfather, Misery) plays the stunning lead in this film and he kills it as a morally grey and violent thief. The heist sequences in this film are great and showcase Mann’s talent for stylised realism that he’d continue to this day in filmmaking and execution of the story. The film just works like gangbusters in its acting, performances, narrative, themes, score, visuals and tense scenes of action and thievery. Considering Mann is most famous for Heat and Collateral-it’s not surprising this was his start.

2. INDIANA JONES AND THE RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
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Yes, the undeniable classic ends up here. Indiana Jones is a modern cultural touchstone. Taking the moulds like Allan Quartermain and James Bond, and making a modern hero by which all other adventurer characters are judged (Lara Croft, Nathan Drake, Rick O’Connell, Benjamin Franklin Gates etc). Steven Spielberg’s and George Lucas’s gambit to both restore a studio’s faith in Spielberg and for Spielberg to essentially make the James Bond film he was denied-the film was a fast and cheap production that…well if you’ve lived in pop-culture long enough (Sequels, Homages, Parodies, References) you know the results. It’s a critically acclaimed, fairly edgy fun blockbuster that is considered one of the greatest action films and films in general with a winning performance by Harrison Ford. The action is great, performances solid, visuals and tone match the fun and energy while having enough dark material to feel unique, the score is classic and has memorable moments from the opening, to the snake pit, to the chase in the city and the final memorable climax.

Now are there problems? Yeah, Indiana is kind of a colonialist graverobber that feels only he should have say over the place of artefacts and there’s the REALLY uncomfortable math/interview that pretty much proves Indiana pursued Marion Ravenwood before she was of age and the time behind it trying to blame her for it is…ew. It’s like the whole Back to the Future “Your mom is trying to bang you” note that is more uncomfortable the more you think about it and the further we get away from it.

Regardless, I think due to just how well the film was made and how it continues to be an influence, cultural touchstone and benchmark for action adventure stories (especially with how bad Kingdom of the Crystal Skull got lashed) I believe the film still works and will continue to be a classic in cinema forever.

1. BLOW OUT
The poster has a squeezed, black-and-white image of John Travolta screaming, with the tagline below reading "Murder has a sound all of its own".
So Blow Out was a seminal film for me. I’d been in college for about half a year and we were now watching films our teacher would put on for us. Now I had expectations for this film and afterwards vocalised my displeasure for some parts until my teacher gave me an epiphany as a filmmaker/audience member which was “recognise what the filmmaker was trying to say” and thus I was awoken to the art of auteur theory and birthed the next part of my mentality as a filmmaker.

Blow Out is a minor miracle of filmmaking, one of those technical achievements like Mission Impossible Fallout or Mad Max Fury Road, but on a small neo noir scale that would make Alfred Hitchcock blush in admiration, Brain De Palma was of course a massive Hitchcock fan and this was his best utilization of those techniques. As the director of Carrie, Scarface, The Untouchables and Mission Impossible-this is easily De Palma’s best film. Its cinematography by the late Vilmos Zsigmond (Deliverance, The Sugarland Express, Close Encounters of the Third King, The Deer Hunter, Heaven’s Gate, The Ghost and the Darkness) is nothing short of astounding in creating De Palma’s Hitchcockian intent flow with all his usual tricks (especially the split diopter shots). Its editing by Paul Hirsch (Star Wars, Carrie, Empire Strikes Back, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Falling Down, Mission Impossible, Lake Placid, Ray, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Warcraft) is near perfection. And massive credit must go to the entire sound team of this film: Randall Coleman, Lowell Mate, Michael Moyse, Dan Sable, James M Tanenbaum, Dick Vorisek, Tom Fleischman, Brian L McCarty and Carl Pagano because the sound work in this film is nothing short of the best sound in cinema.

The plot of the film is that John Travolta is a sound recordist on a low budget slasher (which has one of the best opening long takes in history) and while recording one night-hears a car crash, but believes that there was more to this “tire blow out”. It leads into a conspiracy that feels reminiscent of films like 3 Days of the Condor and All the President’s Men (commentating on the Watergate scandal) but in the end is a closer comparison to the neo-noir masterpiece Klute from a decade earlier. The film’s set piece moments are the moments where we follow John Travolta listening to the audio of that night as it happens, then the repeats-with the audio and visuals some of the best non dialogue storytelling you’ll ever see/hear. It’s somewhat similar to Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation in examining the art and importance of sound, however this one takes it to the extreme and has a haunting meta-textual and thematic resolution. The film ultimately subverts the conspiracy story proper for a more intimate story and while I initially disliked it, I realise that is why this film is amazing and truly the best film of 1981.

A Deep Dive Review – KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD

King Arthur wears a leather jacket in front of a pink sky and faces the viewer, his sword held by both hands downward in front of his chest.

2 years ago, Warner Brothers and Guy Ritchie released the culmination of 13 years of planning. After 2004’s tepid King Arthur directed by Antoine Fuqua (a film that tried to copy Gladiator to a fault), many productions were considered including a Excalibur remake by Bryan Singer (no thank you) and a King Arthur + Lancelot feature. But Warner Brothers finally settled on a plan for the modern era-a cinematic universe using of the Arthurian Legend that borrowed from the tone and style of their successful Dark Knight trilogy and it was to be made by popular British filmmaker Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, Revolver, Sherlock Holmes, Aladdin remake). Starring Charlie Hunnam (Pacific Rim), Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes), Djimon Honsou (Shazam!), Eric Bana (Hulk) and David Beckham (Yes, the football star), it would cost $175 Million (Plus $100 Million in marketing) and set up 7 movies.

…and it failed. King Arthur was a financial failure: failing to open number 1 at the box office in America or China in May (Losing to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Alien Covenant , Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Dangal and WB’s own Wonder Woman). Against its total $275 Million dollar cost (That might’ve been larger) it only ended up making $150 Million and lost Warner Brothers about that much (The same year Justice League, Geostorm, The Lego Ninjago Movie, Blade Runner 2049, CHiPs failed to draw in the necessary profits) while Wonder Woman, It, Annabelle Creation, Dunkirk, Kong: Skull Island, The Lego Batman Movie did very well for them. It also got fairly well mauled by critics who complained about the story, direction and intent at a big universe.

And to be honest, I think attempting a cinematic universe with the rather basic Arthurian Legend was bad and something Warner Brother must’ve realised as production was going on. The film shot in 2015, but was pushed back from its 2016 release a few times to the eventual 2017 May release. And considering the editing, lack of enthusiasm for sequels-it feels like WB really did regret committing to this film as a franchise starter (considering it was “a Frankenstein’s monster style screenplay” where they borrowed every King Arthur idea lying around) and just wanted to make a viewable product for audiences (much the same way they handled Justice League that same year).

So it’s 2019 now: Guy Ritchie’s newest film is the remake of Disney’s Aladdin coming soon, no one really talks about this movie-so why am I doing it? Well for whatever reason-the film has been stuck in my head along with the positive review by Lucy Jane Patterson (https://twitter.com/popcorn_and_pnm) (https://popcornandpnm.weebly.com/home/my-lucy). Plus this trailer is pretty fun to re-watch.

So: what’s my thoughts on the film? Well first I wanna talk about my relationship to Guy Ritchie and Arthurian Legend as cinema.

I discovered Guy Ritchie through his continued style referencing in online media (particularly in film reviews and FilmRiot’s “Guy Ritchie text” video) and didn’t fully watch one his films until I acquired Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows on Blu-Ray. I gradually discovered more and more of his work (only not seeing Rocknrolla yet) and in terms of rankings
-Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels [Pretty good, hasn’t fully grown on me]
-Snatch [Really enjoy]
-Swept Away [Trash]
-Revolver [Really enjoy despite the negative press]
-Sherlock Holmes [Kind of weak]
-Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows [Pretty good]
-The Man from U.N.C.L.E [Mixed]
So I was curious of his attempt at a King Arthur and especially his Aladdin film. His trademark is his visuals, cockney comedic attitudes and mixture of editing to playful storytelling. He’s worked with many great actors including Jason Statham, Benicio Del Toro, Brad Pitt, Tom Hardy, Idris Elba and Robert Downey Jnr and even his lesser films have something interesting to them…except Swept Away-that’s his worst film. And as a director…he needs a good script, he’s often written his own-but a bad script can botch up the project. He needs to be in tune with the vision, goal, style and story of the film to be on point. Sometimes studios cut him down (like Man from Uncle) and sometimes it’s his own fault, but I think one day he’ll make a film to equal the success and critical darling of Snatch. But for reference, Revolver is my favourite film of his.

Now in terms of Arthurian Legend on screen-Excalibur is my favourite film in that canon thanks to Boorman’s darker take on the material, plus it looks great. I like Disney’s Sword in the Stone, Quest for Camelot is a fun nostalgia piece, I liked Monty Python and the Holy Grail and I want to see The Kid Who Would Be King. That’s about it really, Arthurian Legend is more interesting when it’s used as a reference point or stuff like Excalibur is just around (like in Soul Eater) and I’d have to say the best lasting Arthurian take in cinema is Star Wars as Luke is clearly an Arthur analog (Obi Wan is Merlin, Darth Vader the evil wizard and such) and The Last Jedi using the tragic dark parts of Arthurian legend was great. Overall though, Arthurian legends really are something to take inspiration from as direct adaptation attempts rarely work. Personally, I’m writing my own deconstructionist take on King Arthur and the story is intended to remove the halo that Arthur has as a character and legend in the goal of asking people to re-evaluate their heroes. King Arthur has a lot that storytellers, filmmakers and artists can use in creativity-the right approach is always the key.

So, that brings us to my opinion of the film itself.

It’s fine, nowhere near as bad as the critics claimed. It’s easily better than the likes of The Mummy, Robin Hood, Pirates of the Caribbean 5 and the Beauty and the Beast remake. But in terms of 2017 epic genre reworkings-I do prefer The Great Wall, Kong Skull Island, Thor: Ragnarok and even Transformers: The Last Knight. The film for me is 50% good and 50% not quite as good. It’s similar to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in that it feels like each part of the film has a good and bad side.

The acting is a mix really good performances and sometimes unconvincing lines and reactions. The visuals are a mix between genuinely inspired and sometimes rather muddy and uninteresting. The cinematography is sometimes outstanding and sometimes lazy, ill-fitting or just not helping. Sometimes the music is spot on, sometimes it’s tonally inappropriate or annoying. Sometimes the editing and montages work like a charm and sometimes they’re downright confusing. The action goes between amazing epic scale fights that inspire, and sometimes they’re just kind of bland. And the film doesn’t always balance its epic fun fantasy film with dark realism. About the best thing this movie has going for it is its production values, sets and visual effects.

But first, we need to discuss the story-from script, to adaptation, to the behind the studio cinematic universe plans. Story and tone wise, the film starts like Snow White and the Huntsman, goes into 2010’s Robin Hood by way of Snatch, then feels like an Assassin’s Creed/Aladdin film, then becomes a little bit like The Dark Knight/Man of Steel and finally ends like Conan the Barbarian or Beowful. It bounces between fun fantasy, epic dark fantasy, comedic crime story, fun superhero film and dark superhero film. And it almost nails this…but not quite. The story and script is credited to Guy Ritchie, David Dobkin (Director of Shanghai Knights and Wedding Crashers), Joby Harold (Director/Writer of Awake) and Lionel Wigram (Producer/Writer of  Sherlock Holmes and The Man from Uncle) and feels like the semi-awkward slicing that might come from them taking a bunch of ideas and trying to make an origin story for a cinematic universe…and then having to cut down your probably 3/2.5 hour movie into a solo installment with your world building and Merlin build up removed a lot.

Yeah, this is a King Arthur movie where Merlin is this behind the scenes player and they ‘promised’ to show and tell him in the next film-which will never happen. See a big problem is that starting a production with the intent of setting up a universe and only at the editing hurdle decided to cross off the idea leads to an odd film. Because we’ve got all this exposition and set up and characters to build, but the editing appears to have neutered much of the film from a big sprawl 3 hour epic into a complacent 2 hour film with off editing. Now, any time Ritchie pulls his classic “tell a story, play with the time” montage-it often works and it’s a lot of fun. Unfortunately, it keeps happening for random and unnecessary spots because the film feels like the studio kept wanting to rush to the next big scene, but the creative team told them they needed more clear set up to make sense and so they’ll just play a scene sometimes and explain it during or after the fact. And that montage trick doesn’t always work, there’s one montage that feels like it was supposed to be a fairly lengthy scene of monster fighting tension…and it feel really truncated because it does not work as a montage.

Then there’s Ritchie’s directing choices. Ritchie clearly had a lot of say on executing this film, but there’s this very big tone problem wherein the film wants to have the darkness, weight and gravity of a Game of Thrones universe. But Ritchie is still tied to his cheeky, semi-juvenile crime chops, while also making a pure fun style fantasy film. It doesn’t fully work and shows how the studio didn’t exactly know what they wanted either, except really hoping this would be another constant franchise for them. There are some very dark moments (hence why this isn’t a typically rated blockbuster and is for mature audiences by Australian film ratings) but the film seems to consistently want to be a regular fun blockbuster. It feels like the creatives involved kept bouncing between a hardcore mature blockbuster and a more typical one and couldn’t pick. It’d be like if Thor Ragnarok wanted to try and be like 2019’s Hellboy for a few moments. Then again, maybe Ritchie wanted to test out some new filmmaking techniques-especially CGI shots and go-pro Snorri-cam for action scenes, along with more interesting visuals. Now it’s not the headache some people claim, but it doesn’t add much aside from trying to make “a gritty and realistic experience” where one action scene is executed more like Black Hawk Down than a fantasy/medieval film.

Warner Brothers was clearly and constantly trying to recapture The Dark Knight with this film. They’ve been doing it ever since that film’s success became their biggest calling card (to the point other franchises like James Bond have been trying to copy it too) but here it doesn’t work. See The Dark Knight is a fairly deconstructionist re-working of Batman, while still being a fairly fun Batman film. Legend of the Sword doesn’t fit that as King Arthur is never treated the same as Christopher Nolan’s Batman, and instead they just went with an overall darker vibe, desaturated look and superhero style arch. Hell, there’s even a scene that’s VERY reminiscent of one from Man of Steel and it comes off as Warner Brothers begging audiences to please repeat the Dark Knight’s success.

For the record: John Mathieson’s cinematography feels its strongest when helped by the CGI team or Ritchie’s desire for Michael Bay-esque experimentation with different cameras, but lackluster when there’s none of that. It’s very similar to his filmmaking career:
Good-Gladiator, Hannibal, Kingdom of Heaven, X-Men: First Class, Logan
Bad-The Phantom of the Opera, Robin Hood, 47 Ronin, Pan

The music sometimes has a really nice kick for the action and montages (I especially love the song: Devil and the Huntsman by Sam Lee and Daniel Pemberton) with composer Daniel Pemberton clearly having a difficult task. Daniel has done some great compositions including Steve Jobs, All the Money in the World and Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse.  However his only other collaboration with Ritchie was on The Man from Uncle and they don’t feel fully synchronised. The score (sound design in general) feels like it goes between epic dark fantasy to comedic British crime feature. Imagine if the score bounced between sound like Game of Thrones and well…a Guy Ritchie film from 2000. It doesn’t quite mesh and sometimes feels tonally at odds with the intent-especially one edit early on that almost feels comical. Plus there’s a particular sound design choice to sometimes focus on the breathing quite a bit that…feels like it had a purpose, but plays more like someone needed to fill the often lacking sound space.

As for the action, sometimes it’s really cool (especially the few moments Excalibur is busted out) but other times it feels like an after thought and without much imagination. It’s not until the 3rd act kicks in that it starts to full weave into the perfect mix of action, story and visuals.

As for the acting: Charlie Hunnam does a great job as King Arthur in my opinion as the low raised “born to be king” with a dark origin. I do think the arch of his character ultimately works…but is very little in terms of its narrative function and information. Most of the supporting cast does ok. Jude Law occasionally feels like he wants to go Jeremy Irons from Dungeons and Dragons levels of cheese, but was asked to play it seriously. Some of Arthur’s friends from early on in the film are fun and play their parts well, but the allies he makes in the second act don’t always work and there’s a particular scene where Djimon Honsou’s delivery is really off. And Astrid Berges-Frisby’s Guinevere as Merlin’s mage understudy (instead of King Arthur’s love interest) feels like she’s WAY too serious, especially when Arthur’s around. I’m not saying she needed to be a damsel in distress-but seeing as she’s the largest female role in the film…it’s a little disappointing the film just makes her a stone face expository deus ex machina vehicle to channel what Merlin would’ve been.

Other minor stuff is the title credits are weirdly small and thin for my taste, the prostitutes who raised King Arthur should’ve had more part than motivational bodies, the 1st act is way to much in a hurry to get to the 2nd and lags just as it gets there, and some of the best shots from the trailer are in the film for maybe a few frames.

But, I did often have fun with the film: the opening with giant Kaiju elephants was great, King Arthur’s cheeky antics in the first act and late 2nd act with his chums are the stuff the film should’ve been built around, when it’s intentionally funny-it is. Some of the visuals/visual ideas are really fun, the effects are great, Excalibur is a really fun weapon and Charlie Hunnam does a good job with the role. Overall, the film fully comes together in the final act when King Arthur begins to question what he’s doing and the Lady of the Lake has to bring him back to the hero’s journey. When the final 3rd act is a big sword battle, a giant snake ripping people apart and King Arthur fighting a Dark Souls boss-it’s fun and I wish more of the film had been that way. It’s just a shame it wasn’t.

In the end, it’s not a poorly made insane production nightmare like The Snowman or Justice League, not incompetent like 2017’s The Mummy or M. Night’s The Last Airbender and more or less feels like Warner Brothers wanting a King Arthur film to be both The Dark Knight and Aquaman. Don’t get me wrong guys-I love some films that are absolutely hated by critics: Batman V Superman, Suicide Squad, the Jurassic World films, The Predator, Blair Witch, Hellboy and Serenity from this year, Venom, Sucker Punch and Michael Bay’s Transformers. So when I say King Arthur is a bit of a mess, but a rather fun mess that unpacking is kind of fun as well-I mean it. Granted I did just write a giant editorial about why this film is only just fine, but if there’s this much for me to discuss and still mostly enjoy the film-there’s definitely a lot to look out. I recommend seeking it out cheap or if it’s on a streaming service and you want a bit of dumb fun that you might want to discuss later.

 

If I did a Harry Potter/Wizarding World Movie

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

So how many of you saw that Crimes of Grindelwald movie last year? How many of you liked or remembered it? Probably not as much if I asked about any of the main series Harry Potter films about 10 years earlier (then again I checked out around Order of the Phoenix).

Regardless, JK Rowling’s cinematic return to her one successful franchise hasn’t been great in that these prequels largely serve more as random fan service excuses or JK to get obsessed with her own lore that doesn’t really do anything. And then there’s her current really bad trend of “I’ll tweet out character details that would be more interesting to read than to find out on Twitter, but I’m either too scared to write it or am trying for woke points” errors. Like she tweeted that young Dumbledore and Grindelwald has an intense sexual relationship, yet that’s in no book or film so it’s just dumb. It’s not even Nicolas Winding Refn or Denis Villeneuve on Only God Forgives and Enemy respectively wherein they explain the meanings of two abstract films, or even Ridley Scott revealing the answer to “Is Deckard a Replicant or not?” for Blade Runner. It’d be like James Gunn saying Rocket Raccoon and Groot had a gay romance before we meet them in Guardians of the Galaxy-it just adds nothing but “are you a try-hard?” questions to the intent.

The main issue is JK Rowling is rich enough and powerful enough that Warner Brothers can’t make a film without her explicit approval and Rowling is clearly far more interested in elaborate world building/exploration than characters, themes or stories. It’s the same reason George Lucas’s Star Wars prequels failed, background to a world we already know with details we don’t really care about. Prometheus and Alien Covenant might’ve enraged fans, but I find their thematic retooling and lack of caring in answering the Xenomorph origin story is a better move than a scientific breakdown of who, when, where and why. The Fantastic Beasts (who have very little to do in these movies) series doesn’t aim to re-contextualise or shift the Wizarding World, it’s just Wikipedia background notes.

So I asked myself a question, if I was given complete creative control: what story would I tell in this universe? Now, I already stated that Rowling has a universal grasp on the property from books, to stage and cinema. My set up would exist in the realm of if JK somehow didn’t have say over this because I’m pretty sure if I pitched this to Warner Brothers and it went through her-she’d either deny it or make changes so that the continuity fits in with events of the series, with tons of cameos and Voldemort being behind it. I’m ignoring any kind of limitation except on reasonable budgets and story length.

 

THE STORY:
So what would the story be? It’d be an Indiana Jones style treasure hunt film. Originally Fantastic Beasts was supposed to be that, but it just turned into “Posh people walk around the city”. My story would have fantastic jungles, various cities and an ancient temple with a tomb in it. It’d allow for more diverse environmental visuals (along with the colour pallet being freed up), and there would be no Hogwarts or old timey London or anything like that. All new places, people and story. Maybe there’d be a line or background detail hinting at something or someone, but it’s mostly its own story.

The story would be about a rogue good Wizard around the 1940’s (Indiana Jones Nazi punching era) who is hiding out in the Amazon jungles and helping local villagers. He’s tracked down by a no nonsense Witch who wants his expertise in helping find a supposed magic relic in the jungle. He declines as he hates the Wizard bureaucracy and elitist treatment toward Muggles (because I’m sick of it), being the reason he dropped out of Wizarding school. She only convinces him by telling him there’s an evil Nazi spy whose team are looking for it an it could endanger everyone.

They go through the jungle, fighting off some interesting monster beasties until finding the tomb. The item however has been stolen, instead there is a Wizard insignia of who took it. The wizard recognises the marking and knows where to go, but they can only escape by getting into a battle with the Nazi team tailing them. They escape, but one of the Nazi underlings recognises the mark too.

The Wizard and Witch go to a Casino in Monte Carlo owned and protected by a powerful old Wizard who loves gambling. The Wizard challenges the owner to a magic free poker challenge for the relic, where if the Wizard loses-he owes 20 years of servitude. The Wizard wins by secretly cheating, but is caught moments later and the old Wizard sells the Wizard and Relic to the Nazis as the Witch escapes.

While in the Sahara desert, the Witch breaks out the Wizard as she summons a Hungarian Horntail Dragon (Come on, that’ll be fun) to their aid. She helps the Wizard and she reveals she used her own magic to place the relic with a homing spell. The Nazis and her had figured out the Relic is really a key, map and warning of an evil locked up in the middle of the Congo.

And pause because I’m going to say that the final act and next part is especially blasphemous for Harry Potter fans because it has a mythology/rules that JK didn’t invent. A problem with most mythologies is how that singular mythology is the only one in the entire world, even though the real world has many nations, faiths, cultures, languages and is always changing. So what I’m about to suggest might offend anyone truly invested in the lore and won’t allow for the change.

So the Nazis open the tomb and it reveals the seemingly dead body of a giant armoured warrior. But when someone cuts themselves on the armour-it awakens the being. The being turns out to be a demi-god of an ancient race (who have nothing to with ANY of the Wizarding World mythos) who guarded civilisations (They’d be called Sentinels). But this one became an immortal mad titan and the other Sentinels had to seal him alive in a tomb, one of them being tasked with hiding the key far from the tomb and it only to be opened when one could defeat him. Unfortunately the Sentinels and myth evaporated from history. Now he’s awake and killing humans, with the smart Nazi underling revealed to be an evil Wizard who wants to use their magic to control the Titan.

Unfortunately…magic doesn’t work. At all. Yes, this will be the other big change-the heroes who have been using their magic to solve problems now can’t because he’s immune. I imagine this will anger many people who dedicate themselves to knowing the spells and such, but that’s how you make something more challenging-you remove the cheat function and cliché win state. So the heroes try everything, even attempting to bury the Titan again-but the Titan breaks free. So the Wizard and Witch have to use a mix jungle smarts and magical trickery to force the Titan to decapitate itself (yes it’s The Incredibles gambit). And that’s the main conflict end.

The story would mostly centre on the Wizard and Witch with their differing backgrounds and ideologies clashing and molding each other. The Wizard starts as someone who doesn’t care about Magic and lost faith in it or anyone being good, but she shows him the good he didn’t see and gives him faith in his gift again.  She starts out as a smug, elitist who despises Muggles and anything to do with him, but he shows her that there’s no reason for that attitude and that basic smarts are as valuable as magic. There’d be small examples of this in action, they’d talk about their feelings and backgrounds more and develop a romance-so fan artists have more concrete references.

 

Doesn’t that sound fun? An adventure, simple plotting, lots of room for characters, nuance and details-plus being really different. I know many fans would dislike it for not tonally, stylistically or “canonically” fitting in, but who says you can’t learn to like new characters or that the Wizarding World should be exclusive to Rowling’s version? You could easily make horror films, monster films, pure noir and plenty of other genres out of the material. The MCU didn’t maintain its success by making each film/sub-franchise the same, it allowed different creators to develop the stories and characters how they fit. Thor didn’t work as a straight serious fantasy and thus the Sci-Fi Comedy version was the best. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is more of a Jason Bourne style spy thriller while Ant-Man is more akin to Flubber and Doctor Strange is a mind bending wizard film. It’s why the Order of the Phoenix and beyond lost me, because the films were so interchangeable I couldn’t remember which one introduced the luck potion or something. It’s just me throwing my theoretical, freed from the creative laws of this franchise to make my own film.

I doubt JK or Warner Brothers sees this (Because the last thing they want to read is Harry Potter fanfics) but I might take this story and make it as its own story as a screenplay to sell. Would love to hear your thoughts on this: positive or negative-the criticism is fine.

Movie Review: HELLBOY (2019)

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

Hellboy (2019) theatrical poster.png

I had fun. That’s what matters.

So critics seem to be really aggro about this film saying things like “unpleasant” and “worst comic book film ever” and I’m feeling like those statements are a little too harsh. The movie is a lot of fun in that dumb 80’s anime or Cannon films way.

Now, no-this isn’t better than the Guillermo Del Toro/Ron Perlman adaptations of the character and comic. Those two films are underrated classics, while this is more a fun mini-blockbuster. Yes, it’s unfair Del Toro never finished his trilogy-but it’s not worth hating on this film for existing. The intent was to differentiate Del Toro’s personal earnest Lovecraftian/Fantasy adventure adaptation of the comic for a direct adaptation that leans into the gore and horror angle. I’ve never read the comics, but I can say this different tone and style felt very much like a comic book, old school anime or 80’s action b film. That’s what I’m thinking-if this film was done as an anime or an 80’s Cannon or Full Moon Studio production: would it have a better response? Because I feel it might have.

So the premise is the usual: David Harbour’s Hellboy feels out of place and has to save the world from something world ending. The threat being Milla Jovovich’s Blood Queen, so Hellboy along with his dad and some other fun characters has to stop her. Originally I thought the film (by the trailers) would be a Thor Ragnarok style fantasy film with a Deadpool edge and there’s bits of that-but it’s more akin to Venom or Sin City with a larger scope. The story I liked because while it replaces the father and loner angle of Hellboy, it does so differently. Hellboy has a strained relationship with his father and his outsider attitude feels like a subtle immigrant metaphor (considering this was made after Brexit was planned). I liked the narrative, even if it was occasionally clunky, the opening expository scene was semi-sloppy and the film takes a while to find its pacing. But Hellboy’s ultimate character destination really worked for me.

As for the cast, I liked David Harbour as Hellboy. He’s less like Ron Perlman’s boy into man arc over the Del Toro films and more akin to a mix of an edgy kid and alcoholic grown up son with issues. He’s funny, badass and I like how he gets the tar beaten out of him enough that he feels human instead of godly. Superheroes have been lacking that a bit lately. Milla is have a ball playing up her camp and the rest of the cast does very well-even if I feel the Del Toro film’s cast worked better and wish that cast size was in here.

The film was directed by Neil Marshall and because of his filmography: Dog Soldiers, The Descent, Doomsday, Centurion and the Battle of Blackwater Bay from Game of Thrones-I’m not surprised of the result. It’s a well made junky fantasy/action/horror/monster/superhero film with some lovely visuals, great designs and some fun sequences. The film was shot by Italian cinematographer Lorenzo Senatore who shoots this material a lot (Boa V.S Python, Lake Placid 2, Spiders 3D) and he brings the film to life really well in his best looking film to date. I know some people say the CGI is bad and…yeah sometimes it is-but it’s not a bother for me. If Black Panther’s occasional green screen mess ups won’t detract it for me-these won’t either.

In terms of my favourite stuff in the film: the Hellboy fight with the Giants was a lot of fun, the pig monster character grew on me a lot, the character of Alice I liked, Hellboy’s “…you’re fucking nuts” line was funny, the final showdown was great (with a sequence that felt right out of the Blood C anime). It was just a lot of fun with some of the gross monsters, unique designs, visual execution, the blood and gore-it was fun.

Not sure if we’ll get a sequel if the reviews hurt the box office: but I’m still happy with the product.

 

Movie Review: US

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

Us (2019) theatrical poster.png

Go see. Just go see it. Us is one of the best films I’ve seen in a while and easily the best film of 2019. No spoilers, just my opinion and some digressions.

Jordan Peele stunned the world 2 years ago when Get Out was released and was an immediate box office, critical and culture hit. I thought the movie was good, but lacked a few genuine scares-but it was really good. Now expecting a lesser movie, Jordan Peele decided to create a bigger and bolder horror film that’s easily one of my new favorites of the horror genre. Us is not just a triumph of cinema, it’s one of those rare horror films with everything one needs to enjoy a horror.

The story is that Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke (both from Black Panther) are middle class parents on holiday, when suddenly they’re attacked by doppelgangers. It’s one of the better set ups in a horror movie that didn’t need to wait until the end to reveal its up front conflict and the story gets weirder than there. To save spoilers, the film’s characters, universe and themes all fit together perfectly in the that many bigger films fail to achieve. The actors giving dual roles is really great to see out and you never question if it’s motion control rig cameras, scene doubles or split screening. The doppelgangers are terrifying in the uncanny Body Snatchers way and the fact they’re exaggerated homunculi of the characters works wonders.

Let it be said Jordan Peele is not the star of the film but Lupita Nyong’o. She’s been underutilized in recent blockbusters after her debut in 12 Years A Slave, but here she’s tasked to play a sympathetic hero mother and an unnerving villain. This isn’t so much as one actor playing Laurie Strode and Michael Myers, but like if Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs were played by the same actor. It’s a powerhouse performance and Lupita NEEDS to win best actress and the next Golden Globes and Academy Awards, if not-the industry failed her. Lupita proves herself a nuanced, deep and emotionally resonant actor who should have all the acclaim and leeway in Hollywood. I know there’s some criticism regarded her villain voice as possibly an offensive disabled person’s voice but…I don’t think so. Her voice sounds more in line with classic raspy villains/monsters, so I really don’t buy that. Besides, the story and performances are too amazing to get hung up on it. Everyone else does a great job, but this is Lupita’s show. Seriously, I think she might be the new greatest actress.

Now, what it immediately noticeable about Jordan Peele is his film tastes. Get Out and Us both come from the 70’s school of horror: social commentary, not always scary, themes and nightmare imagery over pure logic and interesting scopes. Get Out was clearly a Stepford Wives throwback while Us…is a bit more complicated. About the closest comparison I had was Philip Kaufman’s remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but there’s so much more than that and I love how new it is. There’s clearly themes and ideas referring to American ideals/personalities, self destruction and duality. There’s also many literary/cultural allusions to works like Alice in Wonderland, Jaws, Hamlet, Home Alone, The Bible and more for this really well told story. Political commentary and referential material aside, the world and themes creating are some of the most fascinating I’ve seen. I can see many people trying to over analyse and nitpick and…no-don’t Just go with it. Groove with what the film is trying to suggest in its world. It’s not the most unbelievable thing and it’s fun.

And how does it work as a horror film? Really well. Get Out rarely scared, but Us did get me very tense and scared. Most of the horror is a pair of home invasion sequences and creeping tension with nightmare imagery from your childhood. The experience somewhat feels like The Strangers and Funny Games, but with more going on. It’s also just really well made with Jordan Peele proving his strengths as a director and storyteller (pulling from Brian De Palm levels of directing), bolstered by cinematographer Mike Gioulakis (It Follows, Split, Glass) using the language of the camera perfectly. The score is really well done and there’s a particular sequence that shows a masterclass of editing by Nicolas Monsour who hasn’t the longest track record (his most notable film being Key and Peele’s Keanu), but proves their talents here.

And the overall effect of the ending and thinking on the film, its universe and themes is one of my favourite things about it. Films like this shouldn’t be seen and forgotten: they need to be mulled over, processed for ages to come. It’s why I can’t give this film a stronger recommendation. You 100% must see this.

TOP 10 BEST FILMS OF 1982

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

Honorable Mentions:
-48 Hrs
-Cat People
-E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
-Fitzcarraldo
-Ghandi
-Halloween 3: Season of the Witch
-Koyannisqatsi
-Q
-The Secret of NIMH
-Sophie’s Choice
-Star Trek 2: Wrath of Khan
-Tron
-The Year of Living Dangerously

10. EVIL UNDER THE SUN
EvilSun01.jpg
While not an outright classic like Agatha Christie’s Poirot adaptation Murder on the Orient Express, Evil Under the Sun is another enjoyable murder mystery with the Belgian mastermind (Who might as well be the original John McClane). Following from the usual “Hercule Poirot supposed to be on holiday when a murder happens” story set-up at a resort-the film works just as well as Christie’s other mysteries. Credit goes to Peter Ustinov (Topkapi, Spartacus, Jesus of Nazareth, Logan’s Run) as the detective in a bewildered state, Maggie Smith (Harry Potter) who is always charming and James Mason (20’000 Leagues Under the Sea, North by Northwest, Lolita) in a rather subdued performance. The visuals are great thanks to director Guy Hamilton (Goldfinger) and the score is nice, the only minor issue is the film has sometimes a pace that’s too relaxed as opposed to the tension in other adaptations of this character.

9. FIREFOX
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What happens if you make a grittier James Bond movie and put Clint Eastwood in it? You get Firefox and Firefox is pretty kick-ass. I was surprised considering the film isn’t/wasn’t well liked by critics-but I found it a really enjoyable old-school spy film. Clint Eastwood (who directs and produces his 9th directorial effort) is a Vietnam War vet who is asked to infiltrate Russia and steal a high tech jet. It’s a simple plot that allows for nuance political discussions, a great arc for Clint’s character, some more unique visuals in his subdued style, some fun action and feels like a 70’s spy film like Marathon Man, All the President’s Men or Three Day of the Condor (You know, the era/genre everyone praised when Winter Soldier became a hit). You likely have never heard of or seen this movie, but I highly recommend it.

8. FIRST BLOOD
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The first Rambo movie is pretty great. While the sequels went into whatever over the top action was popular at the time (And I suspect the next one will be bad) the original was more akin to a survival thriller. John Rambo plays a disheveled Vietnam War vet (which was and still is a popular character) who is wrongfully treated by a small town Sherriff and crew-leading to him being stuck on a mountain with people wanting his head. The right mix between a bombastic action film, intense thriller and emotionally resonant political point-the film is a classic for a reason and one of the reason’s Stallone is so famous. It’s also the best known work of Canadian director Ted Kotcheff who I also love for the comedy Weekend at Burnie’s and Aussie horror flick Wake in Fright (both of which you should check out).

7. CONAN THE BARBARIAN
A man, wearing nothing but a loincloth and a horned helm, strides forth, holding a sword aloft in his left hand. A blond woman kneels in front of him, holding a curved blade with both hands.
Directed by John Mulius (writer of Apocalypse Now and writer/director of Red Dawn) who wrote this alongside Oliver Stone (writer of Midnight Express and Scarface, director of Platoon and JFK) Conan is the quintessential pulpy fantasy story that dominated books in the earlier 20th century and is perfectly realized here. Yes, it’s problematic in terms of depicting male and female relationships, but it’s still a good classic revenge story based on one of the most famous examples of that story. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the title character who wants a lifetime’s worth of revenge after a cult leader (played by James Earl Jones and in a funny counter to Star Wars-his eyes are the cause of fear and introduction) for the death of his tribe and family. It’s an epic, unabashed fantasy epic with snake fights, sexy ladies and an epic showdown. While I can’t guarantee everyone will love this (and some may enjoy this in a bad way) I can say I appreciate it and it’s something worth watching.

6. POLTERGEIST
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Depending on who you ask-this is either a directorial effort by the late and great Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Lifeforce) with Steve Spielberg assisting…or Spielberg just using Tobe Hooper as a ghost director. Regardless, it’s a fun, scary and entertaining horror movie ride that holds up (especially considering the remake sucked massively). The simple horror premise, the likeable and human characters, the great practical effects work and use of horror-it’s a household classic for a reason. My only minor gripe is the construction works perving on the teenage daughter which is…yeah just a little creepy at best.

5. THE DARK CRYSTAL
The Dark Crystal Film Poster.jpg
Frank Oz’s and Jim Henson’s fantasy near masterpiece that should be seen by every storyteller, filmmaker or lover of film. A family film with edge akin to Legend, Labyrinth or Jurassic Park-The Dark Crystal is the classic fantasy world with a big universe, chosen on and hero’s journey that does it correctly. It’s visuals and animatronics are astounding (but what else do you expect), the story simple but with enough nuance, great villains and it just overall one of those 80’s movies that shows you could have a typical Star Wars style product with artistic creativity. It’s a must see.

4. MAD MAX 2: THE ROAD WARRIOR
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I know this film is often praised as one of the best action films of all time and I think that’s at least mostly true. Fury Road did kind of blow this one out of the water in terms of budget, theme, scope and storytelling. But Mad Max 2 was a small, scrappy, fun and epic Australian action ride with Mad Max and Happy Feet creator George Miller leading with the original Mad Max Mel Gibson. The film works on its own terms, works wonders as an action vehicle, has a great use of storytelling and helped invent the popularised post-apocalyptic vision we’ve seen in everything. Really what more do I have to say? It’s awesome. Go watch it.

3. THE LAST UNICORN
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This sweet, seemingly childish animated film is genuinely one of the most beautiful films with an astounding stories I’ve seen. An 80’s equivalent to Your Name in the form of a Tolkien-esque universe about the titular Last Unicorn realised in stunning 2-D animation. With a fairly well known cast including: Mia Farrow (Rosemary’s Baby), Christopher Lee (Lord of the Rings), Alan Arkin (Argo), Jeff Bridges (The Big Lebowski) and Angela Lansbury (Bedknobs and Broomsticks) the film is a triumph of visual storytelling, subtle thematic plays and genuine wonder. It’s easily one of the best 2-D non-Disney animated features and you should absolutely watch it.

2. THE THING
= A human silhouette wearing a thick coat and hood stands against a white background. Beams of white emanate from the hood opening, obscuring its identity.
John Carpenter’s masterpiece. A suspenseful, violent, visual effects masterwork of horror that was poorly received at the time…but is now the bar by which all claustrophobic sci-fi thriller/horror films are judged. It’s cast led by Kurt Russel (Big Trouble in Little China, Furious 7) and Keith David (They Live, The Princess and the Frog) is a wonderful use of older actors to avoid the basic teen horror route. The cinematography by Dean Cundey (Halloween, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Jurassic Park), score by Ennio Morricone (The Good the Bad and the Ugly, The Hateful 8, Orca) and practical effects by Rob Bottin (The Howling, Robocop, Se7en) are all perfectly created to add to the horror, dread and tension. The film is a masterwork in building suspense and tension through all the team at play, meaning the explosive horror/gore/monster scenes feel earned and more terrifying than the 2011 prequel that rushed to it. The titular Thing is easily one of the scariest monsters in cinema and is just spectacular work studio horror films won’t go for anymore. There’s also the various themes that could be attached from disease/aids (like The Fly) or communism/alternative political infiltrators (like Invasion of the Body Snatchers) and it’s all great-leading to one of the most debated endings in horror cinema. Just watch this, and for the record-the director of the first film “The Thing from Another World” (adapted from the short Novella Who Goes There) bashed this film…even though his is often forgotten and this is a more faithful adaptation of the book.

1. BLADE RUNNER [THE FINAL CUT]
Image result for blade runner final cut
This is one of the best films of all time. Ridley Scott’s meditative genre masterpiece that was bullied by studios to the point the true definitive edition wasn’t available until 2007 with The Final Cut…Blade Runner is amazing. It and its sequel stand as two of the greatest piece of science fiction and noir cinema/media. Anyone who argues otherwise needs to properly examine the films. Ridley Scott was perfect in this film with his use of experimental formalism that allowed him to develop the film to a more pure and less manufactured vision by continually building the film’s world and themes on the fly. The film is one of the best looking pieces of cinema of all time (akin to its sequel, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Fall and Enter the Void) primarily thanks to its design team and legendary cinematography Jordan Cronenweth (Rolling Thunder, Altered States, State of Grace, Peggy Sue Got Married and father to cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth who shot Fight Club, The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl). The score by Vangelis (who also composed Chariots of Fire) is one of the best pieces of music in history. The cast of Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones), Sean Young (Stripes), Rutger Hauer (Batman Begins), M. Emmett Walsh (Blood Simple), Darryl Hannah (Kill Bill) and James Hong (Kung Fu Panda) is all amazing and under Scott’s direction-continue to push the films themes.

While there’s continuously been debate over the question of whether or not Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard is a robot/replicant in a sci-fi heterotopia where they’re executed. But I feel that misses the point over the film’s full diagnosis and examination of identity on multiple levels, exploitation, classicism and social evolution. The film isn’t too dense to understand: you just need to look and feel what the film has to say on itself, the world and its own world through the characters. Besides, whether Deckard is human or not was answered by Ridley in an interview which you should watch (and the Final Cut answers this clearly through visuals).

My advice is to 100% watch this. Find the Final Cut on Blu-Ray or rent on YouTube movies and enjoy one of the best films ever made.

Further Watching: