tag:hardouthere.posthaven.com,2013:/posts Anamorphia 2018-11-01T05:46:03Z Sam Toy (@samjuro) tag:hardouthere.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1338676 2018-10-10T10:06:00Z 2018-11-01T05:30:08Z Review: BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE

Writer director Drew Goddard usually tends to specialise in high concept (Lost and The Good Place on TV, writing CLOVERFIELD or adapting WORLD WAR Z and THE MARTIAN for the big screen, and his directorial debut was CABIN IN THE WOODS), so it’s something of surprise to see him deviate into relatively more grounded territory with this labyrinthine pulp thriller.

It’s 1969, and the titular hotel – a novelty establishment that bestrides the states of California and Nevada – has seen better days. Not so long ago it was the hottest, jumping-est spot in the Pacific time zone, accommodating and entertaining the biggest A-list stars and dignitaries. Split by a bright red line running literally right through its centre, guests enjoyed the gimmick of being able to choose in which side of the venue they would stay. It was also, according to a prologue, the scene of its share of shady dealings. Then, for some mysterious reason the renewal of the El Royale’s gaming license was denied. Now it’s all but deserted, except for sole employee Miles (Lewis Pullman) – and the four strangers who turn up at almost exactly the same time, each with their own reasons and secrets.

There’s the elderly and forgetful Father Flynn (Jeff Bridges), struggling singer Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo), vacuum cleaner salesman Laramie Sullivan (Jon Hamm), and terse loner Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson).  We have a pretty good idea that most of these people are not who they say they are, but their real identities and intentions? That, as the genre dictates, is anyone’s guess

Much mention has already been made of Goddard’s invoking Quentin Tarantino’s trademarks – the chapter headings, the overlapping points of view, the verboseness of the characters, jukebox worship – but that’s little unfair. It’s more the case that Goddard and Tarantino are drawing from the same sources, and both are doing it well.

It’s a beautifully stylish film thanks to both Seamus McGarvey’s (ATONEMENT, THE AVENGERS) lush, neon-soaked cinematography, and the art and productions teams: Martin Whist, Michael Diner, Lisa Van Velden and Hamish Purdy pouring glorious, swingin’ period detail into every scene, while the sets themselves cleverly come to represent the themes (ethical boundaries, lines being crossed, silent witness vs intervention) of Goddard’s knotted story. Oh, a let’s give another shout out to that gorgeous jukebox

But while the first two acts of Goddard's story are all grimy atmospherics and tense fun, when the storm arrives in the form of Chris Hemsworth’s malevolent charmer Billy Lee, things begin to unravel. We’re given a denouement which, for reasons that shall here remain unnamed (but here's a clue: it's to do with a commonality within his previous body of work), isn’t entirely satisfying. Sure, it’s only one bum note, but it’s the high note, and while that's not the end of the world it’s just a bit of a pity when the rest has been so much grubby fun.

BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE is released October 11 in Australia, and October 12 in the US and UK.

Sam Toy (@samjuro)
tag:hardouthere.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1338184 2018-09-20T11:35:00Z 2018-11-01T05:33:26Z Review: MANDY


To call MANDY strange is obviously understatement - it's been a major selling point since its rather magnificently oblique trailer was released. And true, it is one of those cinematic mood pieces that is difficult to describe without spoiling – but you should know that despite the giddy fan reaction, at its heart Panos Cosmatos' heart of darkness exploitationer is really rather reactionary. It's very much a film of two halves, the first of which is masterful. But while Cosmatos may yet end up with a place among the greats of sensory strangeness - Lynch, Jodorowsky, Argento - MANDY doesn't really deserve to be the film that puts him there.

That first half is careful in its construction, spectacular in its imagination and so confident in its execution that you feel in very safe hands. It’s 1983, and in the Pacific Northwest United States, lumberjack Red (Nicolas Cage) and his artist girlfriend Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) are living a quiet, simple life in the woods. Beautiful, slow burning scenes establish some pain below the surface of each character, until a sinister hippie cult arrives, led by Jeremiah (Linus Roache), who from the moment he sees Mandy immediately wants to own her. Items with names like “The Horn of Abraxos” are sounded. HELLRAISER Cenobite-like bikers are summoned. Bad folk rock albums are played, all of which ends in tragedy and harrowing trauma for the hero couple.

Cosmatos' weird symphony begins like an exciting night-time drive down an unlit forest back road, with only a spotlight to see both what’s ahead and what’s whizzing past, but the man at the wheel earns your trust. His brave stylistic choices – moody animated chapter headings; careful, highly saturated colour filters over dramatic, stadium concert-esque lighting; excellent, trippy performances; some wonderful set design, and most of all Jóhann Jóhannsson’s prog-epic score (sadly, his last) - mix perfectly with his set-up: Reagan’s conservative black & white morality soundbites, a world in which the good guys wear pentagram t-shirts and dwell on the fringes of society while the baddies are evangelist nutters, a deranged and byproduct/extension of that same corrupted Christian Right.

And then…? And then…

That back road suddenly intersects with a well-lit, well-worn highway back to Tropesville. Cosmatos turns onto it, riding at full speed where so many of his retro genre influences have ridden before him, and he never looks back.

The production values remain high, but the story's potential corrodes from beneath the gloss. That period setting loses all meaning and value, exposing it as just a crutch of cosmetic nostalgia.

The slow realisation that MANDY isn’t in fact going anywhere new, that what could have been an amazing update of the old male revenge fantasy is merely reverting and regressing back into one, is crushing. All that sending the Cageometer up to eleven and its accompanying mayhem – Ooh, they’re having a chainsaw fight! How batshit ker-azy is this?! – is just dressing which can’t distract from the squandered opportunity Cosmatos was so close to seizing.

There are too many fine small achievements for it to be considered bad per sae, and despite its writing flaws it is an experience deserving of the big screen (and a bigger sound system), but be ready for MANDY to end up as what it is: yet another hollow '80s nostalgia wank.

MANDY is released September 14 in the US and October 12 in the UK. It screens in Australia for one night only (September 21).

Sam Toy (@samjuro)
tag:hardouthere.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1322459 2018-07-24T22:40:00Z 2018-11-01T05:40:14Z Review: MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT

The fifth instalment of the M:I franchise was always going to be a tough act to follow. The series has consistently delivered high quality action thrills, but ROGUE NATION seemed to finally perfect the formula – lean and unpretentious, with just the right balance of outrageous spy antics and genuinely inventive, thrilling action; it knew exactly what it was, and what it was supposed to be. Somehow though, returning writer director Christopher McQuarrie and main man Tom Cruise (star, stuntman, and very much producer) have managed - more or less (which will be very much a matter of taste) to match it with this direct sequel.

You see as it turns out, despite his incarceration wily villain Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) still has a few tricks up his straight jacket sleeve, and before we or Ethan Hunt (Cruise) knows it, the ‘apostles’ of Lane’s ‘Syndicate’ have stolen three lumps of plutonium from under Ethan's team’s nose, which they plan to put to very naughty use unless the IMF can quickly save the day, propelling us headlong into another globe-spanning, dizzying maelstrom of skydiving, brutal nightclub bathroom brawls (special shout out to Liang Yang here), blinding car/motorbike/helicopter/foot chases and literal cliffhangers.

Most of this was achieved – astonishingly – in camera, and it’s in this regard that FALLOUT truly excels. We’ve reached an age in movies where as long as we steer clear of faces (up to and including moustaches *cough*JUSTICE LEAGUE*cough*), audiences now consciously understand that while still impressive to look at, neither a star nor their massive insurance policy is ever truly anywhere near actual peril. With Cruise, it’s different, and with this series he and Paramount have made a very cleverly marketed this as the M:I franchise’s point of difference: that is him hurtling on two wheels over the wet cobblestone streets of Paris without a helmet. That is the star piloting the helicopter. It’s not digitally placing his head over a stuntman. It shows, it makes a difference, and it certainly deserves acknowledgement and breathless applause. (Side note: the Academy don’t need to start rewarding Best Popular Film – they need to start recognising feats like this, and things like Andy Serkis’ entire body of work. But that’s a different blog post).

Meanwhile, there’s the usual distrust, bureaucratic obstruction, double-crossing and mask-revealing, and if FALLOUT has any weakness, its here. Whether it’s a plot twist too many leading to a slightly puffy middle act, or the inclusion of either a returning Alec Baldwin as IMF director Alan Hunly, or newcomers Angela Bassett as the new CIA director purple nurpling the team by the inclusion of her own enforcer August Walker (Henry Cavill), or even the mysterious White Widow (Vanessa Kirby) – a character who, for those eagle-eared and paying strict attention to the series as a whole, teases a tantalising morsel for the inevitable further instalments – something in there feels like one egg too many.

Fortunately the rest of the film is so damned entertaining that, on first viewing at least, any minor shortcomings are very difficult to notice and even harder to dwell on. McQuarrie & Cruise have steered their cast & crew to another barnstorming episode in a series that despite celebrating its 22nd(!) cinematic birthday, is still firing very much on all cylinders, and shows no signs of slowing.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT is released July 25 in the UK, July 27 in the US, and August 2 in Australia and NZ.

Sam Toy (@samjuro)
tag:hardouthere.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1276621 2018-04-25T00:05:42Z 2018-11-01T05:46:03Z Review: AVENGERS | INFINITY WAR

Ten years and 18 films into the Marvel Cinematic Universe has all been leading up to this: the second most anticipated movie of the 21st Century (and if you’ve forgotten the fever pitch for THE FORCE AWAKENS, you have a very short memory.)

Thanos (Josh Brolin), who has been signalling his imminent arrival since THE AVENGERS in 2012, is finally here. If you’ll remember his purpose for having Loki invade Earth (starting at New York) with an army of monsters in that point was to find a single Infinity Stone which had found its way on our planet. There are six of these gems, each containing immense power over an aspect of the universe’s existence, and Thanos wants to collect them all to put in his special Infinity Gauntlet and have power of life or death over every known thing. And while that first stone was taken off-world by Thor (Chris Hemsworth) at the end of THE AVENGERS, two more have since been revealed on our world – one sits around Dr Strange’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) neck the other is embedded in the bonce of Vision (Paul Bettany). Everybody got that? Good, because it’s just the tip of the iceberg. AVENGERS | INFINITY WAR clocks in at 149 minutes, and brings together the casts of nearly all previous MCU movies (and name checks the remaining few). Understandably then, it moves at a break-neck pace - it has to, and it barely pauses to see who’s remembered the important details from all earlier adventures across the nine realms and dozens of worlds.

You have to hand it to directors Anthony & Joe Russo – the task in front of them was monumental, but they and their team have handled it exceptionally well. The film’s greatest achievement isn’t necessarily to deliver the greatest story ever told (though it is wonderfully epic, wholly deserving of the biggest screen you can find), but to deliver the most entertaining movie they possibly could relative to the constraints in front of them. Think of the sheer logistics in bringing together not only the plots and disparate characters of ALL previous Marvel movies (many of whom haven’t met each other yet), but also the stylistic choices and design idiosyncrasies of each separate story, and having to merge them all into a smooth, coherent, entertaining-without-being-too-self-indulgent whole. Well, that’s what has been achieved here. Obviously Marvel has been putting a LOT of care and thought into this from the get-go, and they've enjoyed such monumental success so far you could try and argue that all they had to do was not get it wrong. But in filmmaking a huge step between planning and execution, and this could all so easily have gone screamingly tits-up; hats off to all involved for that simply not being the case, but major props for making it so bloody good.

As with all of these, it’s probably going to be easy to sit in future viewings and pic at plot threads, moments of rushed exposition and whatnot, but in the moment, INFINITY WAR works. Bouncing back and forth between three or more locations at any given time, it’s two and a half hours of breathless action. To say it never lets up would be a lie – I think it lets up once or twice. For about a minute. Then we’re back into the action, often unfolding in several places at once.

My greatest concern going into INFINITY WAR had always been Thanos himself. Marvel has notched some good wins recently thanks to interesting villains with a fair point of view (Michael Keaton’s Vulture in SPIDERMAN: HOMECOMING, and Michael B Jordan’s Killmonger in BLACK PANTHER being the two standouts), but their purple, scrotum-chinned big bad had always seemed a bit too disconcertingly vague. He’s brought quickly and sharply into focus here though: a lesson in economy of storytelling. How much do we really need to know about him? Not as much as you might think, it turns out.

Behind the camera, the work is second to none. The budget here is obviously much larger than the ‘individual adventure’ Marvel movies, and it shows in the finesse of the visuals – most easily noted in the improvement of the compositing of the Wakanda backgrounds*. I can’t think of a single shot that jars the eye (against for example that semi-trailer being flown out of shot in AGE OF ULTRON, which stuck out like dog's balls). The film also represents a wonderful amalgam of design styles – the Guardians, the Asgardians, the Wakandans, the world of Dr. Strange – everything merges smoothly, while of course the Iron Man and Spider-Man suits continue to evolve.

If you really want to get niggley, I’d say I can see the wheels turning just a fraction with the need for comic relief to diffuse the weight of the drama. The fallback to a funny line at the end of every heavy scene exposes itself as a device, and the Russo brothers (who have always seemed more comfortable with the darker tones of action storytelling) aren’t as deft as a Joss Whedon in making these joins invisible – or maybe it’s just unavoidable when every other character is a wise-cracking loose cannon? This is not to suggest the comedy doesn’t work: about 95% of it does, but I’m trying not to gush here.

INFINITY WAR may just be Marvel’s finest 2.5 hours to date; their GODFATHER PT.2, their EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, their DARK KNIGHT. Fans may believe the hype: it really is that good - and if you're not a fan by now, you really shouldn't be watching. This is a movie that achieves almost everything it sets out to, and make no mistake: that is a LOT.

*on a second viewing, I did notice some of the compositing in the Wakanda sequences (particularly the closer shots). I wonder why something so seemingly straightforward is an ongoing problem? If there's any techies out there who know, do feel free to explain in the comments section.

AVENGERS | INFINITY WAR is released April 25 in Australia and NZ, April 26 in the UK and April 27 in the US.

Sam Toy (@samjuro)
tag:hardouthere.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1269582 2018-04-03T15:07:00Z 2018-04-06T15:33:53Z Review: A QUIET PLACE

I have no idea how John Krasinski’s A QUIET PLACE actually came about, but in my head it’s by way of apology from 13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI director and Platinum Dunes boss Michael Bay to Krasinski’s wife Emily Blunt for that year Krasinski had to spend super pumped up – a body shape she apparently loathed - to play a soldier in Bay’s film. It probably had nothing to do with the fact that Krasinski and his co-writers (Scott Beck and Ryan Woods) had crafted an excellent, simple-yet-novel genre tale encased in an attractively affordable production budget. It’s all about Blunt’s ability to throw frightening shade at parties. Probably.

With just his second feature as director, Krasinski - who also stars (and is still best known as Jim from the US version of The Office) – delivers a punchy, carefully measured and economical film. Opening just a few months after mysterious creatures have appeared and decimated the rest of Earth’s animal population, we only ever know as much as Krasinski and Blunt’s five-strong Abbott family (their three children played by Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe and Cade Woodward) – most importantly that the monsters hunt by sound. They have adapted to life in silence quicker than most, though – the eldest child, Regan, is deaf.

The value of sound as a cinematic device is ingeniously played with time and again, but the novelty never feels labored. Likewise, jump scares are present, but they rarely feel cheap or unearned (one of my pet hates in horror), and in that regard A QUIET PLACE may be my favourite since 28 DAYS LATER. It's a film with heart, but never loses sight that this is a genre that lives and dies by its set pieces. And what set pieces they are - Chekhov's gun may well be given a run for its money after this.

Charlotte Bruus Christensen’s luscious cinematography works in complete synch with Jeffrey Beecroft’s production design, and together they provide one of the film’s key hidden strengths: an immersive and always clear and quietly believable sense of geography of the family farm, where nearly all of the story takes place.

Then of course, the performances: Krasinski and Blunt are typically strong as the everycouple, while the kids are wonderfully real and rounded.

It’s not perfect. Krasinski and his co-writers fall prone to having characters make some (literally) unbelievably selfish choices for the sake of drama (and those set pieces), and similarly he's made some strange choices regarding chronology - there are moments where you can almost feel those behind the camera praying that the audience doesn’t solve in the film’s blessedly lean 90 minutes what it seems to be taking the characters years to figure out. Ordinarily the accusation would be that these choices are unearned, but here Krasinski & co. actually make up ground and have you forgiving them after the fact – a rare achievement.

There are those who will question the validity of a PG-13 horror film, but the rating is due to an absence of gore and swearing, not atmosphere and tension. A QUIET PLACE may not trouble the terror-meter on the scale of, say, THE DESCENT, but it's got enough grunt to give even seasoned horror fans a good workout, and is bound to remain on many a 2018 favourites list.

A QUIET PLACE is released April 5 in Australian, NZ and the UK, and April 6 in the US.

Sam Toy (@samjuro)
tag:hardouthere.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1265008 2018-03-25T11:40:29Z 2018-03-30T02:11:48Z I AM GIVING AWAY MY EX-RENTAL VHS TAPES

UPDATE 30/03/18: ALL GONE! Thanks for your interest, everybody.

They said it would never happen. Well, I said it wouldn’t happen. Actually I probably never said it would never happen, but anyway it’s now HAPPENING: I am parting with my collection of ex-rental (and some sell-through) VHS tapes, giving them away to anyone who wants to provide any of them a good home.

Before you get too excited, I’ll be totally honest and say I’m pretty sure there’s nothing overly rare amongst this list. This is really just to make sure there's not some completist fans out there looking to fill a gap in their collection, or fans of particular covers etc. The next stop for these, heartbreakingly, is landfill.

That said, these are all being stored out of any discernible order in cardboard boxes, and I frankly can’t be arsed digging into them and taking photos of a particular cover. If you want the title, you getting it for free, paying only postage (anywhere in the world is fine).

All tapes are PAL. Any title (at the end of the list) with an asterisk comes in an old blockbuster 'take home' cover – there is no sleeve artwork with these tapes.

I can’t make any promises as to the playability of some of these, but most are in reasonable nick – and let’s face it, it’s mostly about the covers.

If you want anything on this list, leave a comment and we'll take it from there. Payment for postage will be sorted through paypal (unless you can pick up for free from the Brisbane metro area).

May your tracking never need adjusting...


12 Monkeys

2001: A Space Odyssey

Aardman Animations Vol. 1

Adventures Of Barry McKenzie, The

Adventures Of Barry McKenzie, The (sell-through)


Age Of Innocence, The

Age Of Innocence, The


Alexei Sayle’s Stuff

Aliens (Special Edition)

Allied Bombers

American Gigolo

American Me

An Audience With Mel Brooks

An Awfully Big Adventure


Apostle, The


Barton Fink

Beavis & Butthead Do America

Beavis & Butthead: Too Dumb For TV

Bedrooms & Hallways

Ben Elton: A Fartie’s Guide To The Man From Auntie

Best Bits Of The Late Show Vol. 2

Best Of The Big Gig

Big Night

Big Steal, The

Biloxi Blues

Bob Roberts

Boys, The


Breaking Away

Breathless (1960, A Bout De Souffle)

Bringing Up Baby!

Broken Highway

Browning Version, The (1994)

Bull Durham

Carlito’s Way

Carry On Columbus

Catch 22

Chasing Amy

Children Of The Revolution

Chungking Express

Cinema Paradiso

Clean And Sober


Club, The

Commitments, The

Coogan’s Run The First Lap/The Final Hurdle



Crucible, The

Dame Edna: Back With A Vengeance

Dangerous Liaisons

Day Of The Jackal, The

Day The Earth Stood Still (195

Days Of Thunder

Dazed And Confused

Dead Again

Dead Man

Dead Man Walking

Dead Man Walking

Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid

Dead Presidents

Dead, The


Deep Cover

Dirty Harry

Don’t Look Now

Doom Generation, The

Dr. Who: More Than 30 Years In The TARDIS

Dr. Who: Shada

Dracula (1992)

Drowning By Numbers

Ed Wood

Edge Of Darkness Pt 2

Eight Men Out

Elephant Man, The

Fast Times At Ridgemont High

Fear Of A Black Hat


Female Perversions

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Filthy, Rich & Catflap Vol.1 & 2

Fish Called Wanda, A

Fisher King, The

Five Easy Pieces

Flesh And Bone

Four Rooms


French & Saunders Series 3 Pt. 2

Funny Bones

Funny Bones

Funny: The Comic Strip Presents


Get Shorty

Getaway, The (1994)

Girl 6


Grapes Of Wrath, The

Great Outdoors, The

Green Keeping

Grifters, The

Grosse Pointe Blank

Groundhog Day


Hand-picked by Billy

Happy Gilmore

Harry Enfield’s Television Programme: Series 2 Pt. 2

Hear My Song

Henry & June

Henry & June

Henry V (1989)

Henry V (1989)

High Noon

High Noon

Higher Learning

Hoop Dreams

Hudsucker Proxy, The

Human Animal, The

I Was Monty’s Double


Idiot Box

In The Soup

Independence Day

Interview, The

Italian Job, The (1969)

Jackie Brown

January Man, The

Jennifer 8

Journey To The Center Of The Earth (1959)

Jungle Fever

Jurassic Park


Kids In The Hall, Vol. 2

Killer (LaPaglia)

Killing Dad

King Of New York, The


Kiss Me Deadly (NTSC)

Last Exit To Brooklyn

Last Man Standing

Last Of The Mohicans, The

Leading Man, The

League Of Gentlemen, The: Series 1

Leaving Las Vegas

Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp, The

Life Is Cheap, But Toilet Paper Is Expensive

Little Caesar

Living In Oblivion

Lost In Yonkers

Love Serenade

Mad Dog And Glory

Man Bites Dog

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Meaning Of Life, The

Mighty Aphrodite

Mission Galactica: The Cylon Attack

Monty Python & The Holy Grail

Monty Python’s Flying Circus (Tape #2)

Monty Python’s Flying Circus (Tape #3)

Mountains Of The Moon

Mr. Saturday Night

Much Ado About Nothing

Mute Witness

My Blue Heaven


Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult

Naked Gun, The

New York Stories

Omega Man, The

Once Upon A Time In The West

One False Move

Out Of Sight

Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid


Perfect World, A

Pink Floyd: The Wall

Poor Cow

Prayer For The Dying, A

Professional, The


Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction (Collector Edition)

Quick And The Dead, The

Rambling Rose

Razor’s Edge, The

Red Dragon: The Curse Of Hannibal Lecter

Reluctant Hitman, The (Cold Blooded)

Reservoir Dogs

Revenge Of The Nerds III: The Next Generation

Richard III (Loncraine)

Rio Bravo

Robin Williams Live

Robocop 2

Rocky Horror Picture Show, The

Rowan Atkinson Live


Saturday Night Fever (PG cut)

Say Anything


Scent Of A Woman

Schindler’s List

School Daze

Searchers, The

Secret Policeman’s Third Ball, The

Secret Policeman’s Third Ball, The



Shakes The Clown

Shawshank Redemption, The


Silence Of The Lambs (no cover)

Six Degrees Of Separation

Smith & Jones

SNL: The Best Of John Belushi

SNL: The Best Of Steve Martin

So, I Married An Axe Murdferer


Spanish Prisoner, The

Spike Milligan: One Man And His Ideas


Stand And Deliver

Steve Coogan Live ‘n’ Lewd

Steve Martin Live (Wild & Crazy Guy)

Straw Dogs (Peckinpah)

Sum Of Us, The


Swimming With Sharks

Tall Guy, The

Terms Of Endearment

John Belushi, The Best Of (WB release)

Q, The Best Of

Castle, The

Comic Strip Presents, The: The Bullshitters / The Yob

Comic Strip Presents, The: Bad News / More Bad News

Day Today, The: Vol 1 & 2

Ice Storm, The

Thin Blue Line, The (1988)

Usual Suspects, The

The Van / The Money (set)

Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead

This Is Spinal Tap

Three Colours: White

Time Bandits

Treasure Of The Sierra Madre

Truth About Cats And Dogs, The

Twin Peaks: Episodes 27-29

Twin Town


Under Siege

Underneath, The

Unknown Marx Brothers, The

Very Brady Sequel, A

Violent Cop

War Of The Worlds, The (1953)

We’re No Angels

West Side Story

White Heat

Whoops! Apocalypse

Wild At Heart

Wild Bunch, The

Wim Wenders: Wings Of Desire / Faraway, So Close!

Wind In The Willows: Masquerade

Wind In The Willows: Spring Follies

Wind In The Willows: Winter Tales

Wind In The Willows: Winter Tales

Witches Of Eastwick, The

Withnail And I

Yellow Earth

Young Americans, The

Zed And Two Noughts, A

Zulu (photocopied cover)

The following have only blockbuster 'take home' covers:

*Before Sunrise

*Brady Bunch, The

*Coming Home

*Flirting With Disaster

*Hard Target


*Little Big Man

*Lorenzo’s Oil

*MacBeth (1979, Ian McKellan)

*My Left Foot

*Naked Gun 2 ½, The

*Naked Lunch, The


*Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

*Saturday Night Fever (PG cut)

*Scent Of A Woman

*Secrets And Lies

*Short Cuts


*Third Man, The


Sam Toy (@samjuro)
tag:hardouthere.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1251214 2018-01-17T01:04:00Z 2018-02-22T22:47:42Z Review: THE COMMUTER

The latest Liam Neeson On A [insert mode of transport here] With A Phone* And Sometimes A Gun movie arrives courtesy of the same director as the last (2014’s NON-STOP, from Jaume Collet-Serra), and there’s really no closer yardstick by which to measure THE COMMUTER; it’s the same discordant mix of Hitchcockian wrong man thriller jarring with splashes of daft action.

This time Neeson is stuck-in-a-rut life insurance salesman Michael MacCauley, who gets caught in a bizarre and dangerous game of ‘guess who’ after a not-so-simple conversation with a stranger (Vera Farmiga) on his multi-hour commute home (this time it’s a train).

To his credit, Neeson – always a magnetic presence – does his damndest to play down any superhuman ability, keeping MacCauley interesting as long as he can with flaws and mistakes, but he’s fighting a losing battle, and by the time the story expands and explodes into ridiculousness (and predictability), much of his efforts are left unthanked and unrewarded.

Behind the camera too, it feels like this is ‘just a gig’ for many of the crew. There’s little in the design or look of the film, in the fight choreography, and certainly not in the second half of the script that conveys any real passion or artistry.

It's a grim irony that THE COMMUTER's biggest screen share is likely to be iPads providing distraction on long journeys; it’s just good enough to pass the time - not down there with TAKEN 3, but it’s no WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES either. Although that said, it might be genuinely interesting if the next one of these was set on one of those ‘floating city’ cruise liners: plenty of variations in sets, international cast, isolation of the open seas, etc. Fingers crossed for third time lucky...

*Can somebody please run the numbers on how many talking minutes Neeson has racked up on screen across his career? If some mobile provider or other hasn’t offered him a large sum to be the face of their company, their marketing people aren’t doing their jobs properly.

THE COMMUTER is released January 18 in Australia, NZ and the US, and January 19 in the UK.

Sam Toy (@samjuro)
tag:hardouthere.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1195058 2017-09-27T10:31:00Z 2017-10-01T04:41:16Z Review: BATTLE OF THE SEXES

In 1973, number one women’s tennis player Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) led a rebel tour of the US over a pay dispute, which – at least according to this dramatisation from LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE creators Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton – gave former men’s champion / relentless self-promoter and exhibitionist Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) the brainwave of orchestrating a televised “challenge” event, exploiting the ‘battle of the sexes’ mood that was changing western culture at the time. For Riggs it was an opportunity to make money and grab attention, but for the then still closeted King, there was much, much more on the line.

BATTLE OF THE SEXES might be one of the most straightforward films you see this year – it’s The Hero(ine)’s Journey painted in simple, strong colours – but surprisingly, it’s no less enjoyable for it; there's something amusing in that lack of complexity cutting directly through to the righteousness of the argument – or at least, it making screamingly obvious the stupidity of the antagonists and theirs. It could have come off as smug and twee, but Faris & Dayton manage to avoid it. Are there problems? Sure: both Bill Pullman’s tennis boss Jack Kramer and Jessica McNamee’s Margaret Court aren’t always given enough depth to convince (although Court’s recent appearances on Australian television trumpeting her homophobia would suggest she really is one dimensional after all), and the directors could have made more of King’s own mistakes, however honest or unavoidable. Was turning Alan Cumming into a fairy godmother a good idea? Your mileage may vary. These flaws are more than made up for though, by a solid turn from Stone, and a magnificent one from Carell (one which may yet land him Supporting Actor Oscar nomination), clearly revelling in the demons and contradictions of Riggs private persona, while never making the larger than life public one too much of a caricature, nor an easy target.

The look of the film, from the spot-on set design to shooting on 35mm celluloid, works wonders in enveloping the audience in the period – as does, in between needle drops, Nicholas Britell’s near subliminal score. Even a parade of “hey it’s that guy” comic actors turning up in non-laugh bit parts which perhaps ought to serve as a distraction, doesn't - such is the film’s charm. Faris and Dayton have delivered a beguiling sports flick which, for Australian audiences especially, couldn’t be more timely.

BATTLE OF THE SEXES is released September 22nd in the US, September 28 in Australia and NZ, and November 24 in the UK.

Sam Toy (@samjuro)
tag:hardouthere.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1184427 2017-08-17T14:06:00Z 2017-10-05T13:20:34Z Review: TERMINATOR 2: 3D


James Cameron’s gargantuan sequel blazed so many trails and set so many records on its release, it still requires virtually no introduction 26 years(!) later. Little surprise then that it’s been tuned up and turned out for the 3D treatment.

As with virtually everything Cameron puts his stamp on though, this is no mere gimmick. Anyone who remembers the film in any detail would consider that between its shooting style and the VFX technology of its time, T2 lends itself very kindly to stereoscope: looking through the hole in the head of Robert Patrick’s T-1000 at the characters who put the hole there; the truck crashing towards us through a bridge barrier, down into a storm drain; the T-1000 walking through a set of iron bars.

What’s surprising is the gentleness of the effect overall. As with TITANIC’s similar treatment a few years back, this is a very subtle remix – the objective (like the wise application of all visual effects) seems to be if not complete invisibility, at least to remain mostly unnoticed.

Elsewhere, there’s a few touch ups to the film itself – a hitherto notoriously visible stunt-double has been surrendered to CG mapping of Schwarzenegger’s face (although now I think of it, was this done for the IMAX re-release a few years back?), and doubtless the eagle-eyed will find some others upon future viewings. The print, despite now being a digital release, retains its pleasing celluloid grain, and the soundtrack (played at thunderous volume in my session) keeps a trebly ‘90s mix.

The film’s original tiny irritations will forever remain (Cameron’s tin-ear for anything but the hammiest of dialogue, poor Edward Furlong’s maddeningly breaking voice), but they’re really not worth mentioning against the generation-defining achievement that is EVERYTHING ELSE about the film. If you’ve never seen T2 on the big screen before, now’s your chance. And if you have, you know you're going again.

T2: 3D is released August 24 in Australia (seven day limited run), from August 25 in the US and August 29 in the UK.

Sam Toy (@samjuro)
tag:hardouthere.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1184413 2017-08-02T13:06:00Z 2017-08-17T13:07:31Z Review: THE TRIP TO SPAIN

Steve Coogan & Rob Brydon return (again) to playing loose versions of themselves, and continue to attempt to out-joke, out-impression and generally needle each other at every opportunity, while eating a lot of lovely food in interesting restaurants.

For once again the story is built around a gastronomical tour - this time (as the title would suggest) in the land of Cervantes, who is referenced throughout. With that very much in mind, the idea of the double act looms large and the inevitable comparisons (Quixotic Coogan, Sancho Brydon) work a treat.

For the most part, this third installment plays the hits – and for fans of the series, that would be plenty; dueling impressions (Caine, Brando, Pacino, Moore, Hopkins and other favourites all get another run, while Hurt, Bowie and Jagger are added to the repertoire), the “Guess The Bill” game, and of course the relentless banter and jousting for attention amongst cultural relics.  If you’re in the pair’s groove (and by third go around, you really ought to be), this is some of the best comedy you’ll see all year - not only to laugh at, but to examine in constructive terms, see: Brydon going from funny, through cringe, and back into funny with an excruciatingly prolonged, hilarious Roger Moore bit.

On this occasion however, there’s an attempt to push the narrative further than before – and it’s not that it doesn’t work structurally, but it’s perhaps a bridge too far; for the first time the plot begins to feel like an obvious device. Maybe this deviation from formula will pay off for the series in the long run, but it leaves the pair’s latest expedition on a somewhat jarring, curious, note. But while it’s undoubtedly a snare, overall it can’t derail an otherwise lusciously shot, delightfully ambling, and hilarious third outing.

THE TRIP TO SPAIN is released August 3 in Australia, August 11 in the US and August 17 in NZ.

Sam Toy (@samjuro)
tag:hardouthere.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1184418 2017-06-29T02:00:00Z 2017-08-17T13:32:23Z Review: MONSIEUR CHOCOLAT (CHOCOLAT)

Rafael Padilla (Omar Sy) was among the world’s first (and certainly first in France) famous black performing artists. He rose to prominence as the clown Chocolat, and enjoyed spectacular success for his part in the then novel double act with white clown Foottit (James Theirée) – although perhaps ‘enjoyed’ is somewhat overstating the case.

When we’re introduced to Padilla at the end of the 19th century, he’s already in a struggling rural circus, playing the role of Kanaga, and presented as a savage, exotic wonder of the African continent. Demeaning, but a paying gig for a performer with limited training and options at the time. At least he’s doing better than Foottit, who is failing auditions, his act being written off as stale. But the eureka moment quickly arrives, and the duo soon realises their value when they are called up to a major theatre in Paris.

Padilla’s experience of fame was brutally fickle, a bitterly sharp double-edged sword for the Afro-Cuban child of slaves. The fact that parallels can be drawn between his situation a century ago and today is as powerful as it is shameful, and its one of the film’s great strengths - it’s a just shame that the (multi-credited) screenplay isn’t smooth enough to convey the subtlety and delicacy it deserves; too often, good work elsewhere is undone by thudding exposition and tin-eared dialogue.

There’s really no better actor working today to portray Padilla than the towering Sy (even though, judging by the actual footage of the clown used in the film, he was not a big man), whose imposing physicality can be disguised through any combination of charm and chops, or revealed it in moments of ferocious self-defence. He doesn’t miss a beat, and has an excellent match in Thierrée as the strange, never completely knowable Foottit, and watching the white clown quietly navigate his own problems and oppressions is another of MONSIEUR CHOCOLAT’s many pleasures.

MONSIEUR CHOCOLAT is released June 29 in Australia and NZ.

Sam Toy (@samjuro)
tag:hardouthere.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1121400 2017-01-08T22:50:39Z 2017-01-08T22:50:39Z 2016 Recap

Now that the dust has settled on 2016, I'm taking a look back. Not at the year as a whole - it's still too soon, and too damned depressing. But as far as movies go, it was pretty unusual. A year when so many a tentpole movies didn't so much outright disappoint as they didn't quite live up to expectations. For many of the biggies, it was too often a year of forgettable averageness. When it was being delivered by ostensibly the same team, why wasn’t GHOSTBUSTERS as good as THE HEAT? STAR TREK: BEYOND? Better than the last one, not quite as good as the first. X-MEN: APOCALYPSE: WTF? (okay, that was just a huge and outright disappointment).

But while only a few of the giants really delivered, the year was peppered with great things in small packages, which has produced two notable results: 1) it’s been really hard to cull my list to ten favourites this year - so many of my listed honourable mentions could easily have had a spot on the final list. 2) This phenomenon has made everyone else’s lists really diverse, which is far more interesting.

As ever, there’s a long list of films that either I didn’t see, or which weren't (legally) released in this part of the world prior to Dec 31. Obviously there’s dozens of these, but off the top of my head, among some of the most popular and oft written about are:



























Moving onto those which could quite easily have made my final list on a different day, it's (VERY) HONOURABLE MENTIONS:















Which leaves the final list. The big enchiladas (mmm, enchiladas); my FAVOURITES FOR 2016:


Fortunately I saw this two days before the US election, so for those 48 hours I was able to enjoy the unbridled humanist optimism of Denis Villeneuve’s thoughtful sci-fi. Beautiful to look at, and – bar one tiny, niggling plothole – clever.



S. Craig Zahler’s remarkable debut horror Western not only succeeds in both genres, but constantly manages to make a virtue of its tight budget; the stillness of the camera serves to both soak up the great characterisations and, eventually, amplify the horror (which classily remains jump-scare free) with its unflinching matter-of-factness.



Richard Linklater’s ‘spiritual sequel’ to the brilliant DAZED & CONFUSED is a curious beast, blending meandering humdrum realism (this is all character and no plot, but in a good way) with nostalgia and a searing attention to period (in this case 1980) detail, and steadfast refusal to take shortcuts with or pigeonhole its subjects; we’re doing a lot more than simply following a bunch of ‘dumb jocks’ around for the weekend.



I went in expecting another charming, low budget British drama starring Maggie Smith in the same sort of role she usually plays (very well, I might add). I got that, but I also finally got why Alan Bennett is so revered. With THE LADY IN THE VAN, Bennett not only writes himself, but splits his ‘character’ in two (both played superbly by THE CROWN’s Alex Jennings), laying bare some glorious insights about the writing process itself.



Tarantino promised something special with his ‘roadshow presention’ Western parlour piece, and he delivered – even if I’m not completely sure what he’d delivered by the end of it (in America, misogyny has always trumped racism? Answers on the back of a comments section, please). But whatever I continue to miss, there's plenty else to love about it: 70mm Ultra Panavision! Morricone! All the clichés about the things Tarantino does best! Etc.!



In moving away from drama and into documentary, SELMA director Ava DuVernay delivers an even more powerful indictment of institutional racism in the United States. The overlay of Trump’s dangerous campaign rhetoric onto a previously contextualised slice of BIRTH OF A NATION (1915) is a strong contender for scene of the year. Meanwhile, Adam Curtis’ BBC iPlayer-only HYPERNORMALISATION may be a near three hours of brain-scrambling complexity, but that’s exactly the point, and while some his broader observations may not be exactly revelatory, the devil is most certainly in the (often forgotten) details.



It may be becoming apparent by now that I am a sucker for a good Western, and Ivan Sen outdid himself this year with his sequel to MYSTERY ROAD. The odd moment of over-egging aside (David Wenham, I’m looking in the direction of your socks/sandals combo), Sen did a bang-up job of furthering the story of Jay Swan (Aaron Pederson), while folding in some forgotten aspects of Australia’s mining past into a decidedly contemporary, real-world-familiar tale.



Despite suffering from a terrible trailer and a too-tight budget (the sub-HBO production values are at times distracting), director Gavin Hood delivered one of the year’s biggest surprises with this tightly-knotted ethical thriller about drone warfare. The upside? The military can now see everything the enemy are doing. The downside? Everything is being recorded, and there are still rules of engagement; it’s fascinating (and occasionally funny) watching responsibility being kicked all around the globe by – often justifiably – nervous politicians. It’s rounded out by a great cast, and ensures the great Alan Rickman a high note sendoff.



By Christ, what a performance from Charlotte Rampling. Not to undermine Tom Courtenay’s fine work in this two-hander, but this is Rampling’s film, and she delivers a masterclass in acting with the eyes. That she didn’t win every award going (BAFTA, who failed to even nominate her, should hang their heads). The screening I attended had more than one bored walk-out, and that’s understandable if you fail to find director Andrew Haigh’s macro wavelength. Find it though, and 45 YEARS makes for quietly devastating drama.



In a word: 'Stungray'. In a lot more words: It feels like Taika Waititi has been searching for this sweet spot for ages. BOY got very close, but had a heavy undercurrent pulling it in a more dramatic direction; WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS was funny and frivolous; but HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE manages to get it just right, walking virtually without fault the line between hilarity and pathos. The adult cast are great, but Julian Dennison is the (Southern) star of the 100 most joyous minutes of the year.

Sam Toy (@samjuro)
tag:hardouthere.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1119794 2017-01-02T04:42:53Z 2017-01-02T04:54:55Z Speed review: LA LA LAND

Much as I hate to say it, and I know I'm in the minority here, but I just wasn't as enraptured by Damien Chazelle's LA LA LAND as virtually everyone else seems to be. I liked it, but this unabashedly contempo-nostalgic Hollywood musical has far too many shortcomings (both aesthetic and technical), to get overly excited about.

The niggles began almost immediately, with the admittedly ambitious single-tracking-shot-through-freeway-traffic-jam opening number. The idea is fantastic, but the dancers aren't up to muster; the blonde guy in the blue shirt who gets his big close up sliding over his car? Sorry mate. Similarly, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are obviously a great duo, but I just kept thinking "was Channing Tatum unavailable?" (To which the answer may well be "yes.")

The second(?) song - the one where Stone's Mia and her friends are getting ready to go out to a party doesn't fare much better, and everything begins to feel a bit like it's trying too hard, but things pick up thereafter, and the moment the comedy elements really get going, pace and structure perk right up and it never looks back.

Finally, a huge technical concern: focus. It feels like a good 20% of the film isn't sharp, and I'm not just talking about all of the complex tracking shots in the musical numbers. This includes simple, static close-ups, and it drove me to distraction. I've since heard from a friend that this is due to the film being shot in Cinemascope (which on the other hand is for me one of LA LA LAND's big pluses), which is an incredibly difficult format for a focus puller to work with. But if the eyes aren't sharp, why take the risk? Was THE HATEFUL EIGHT using the only old school focus puller in town?

So the colours are nice, and the central performances are fine, but let's not kid ourselves: the bars set by the great Hollywood musicals - both in front and behind the camera - aren't in any danger of being toppled by Chazelle's creation. It's a nice enough way to pass a couple of hours, but there's not enough here for me to believe LA LA LAND is the masterwork everyone's making it out to be.

LA LA LAND is in cinemas now in Australia, New Zealand and the US, and is released January 12 in the UK.

Sam Toy (@samjuro)
tag:hardouthere.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1119669 2016-12-29T14:42:00Z 2017-01-02T06:13:14Z Review: ALLIED

Another year, another WWII spy thriller. Ever get the feeling that all of these baby boomer directors each want their shot to relive their fascination with the airfix model Spitfires and Panza tanks of their childhoods using the filmmaker's toybox? You're not alone. This time it's Robert Zemeckis' turn.

It's 1942, and Canadian airman and spy Max Vatan is parachuted into Casablanca to rendezvous with French resistance fighter Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cottilard), where they are to pose as husband and wife to infiltrate an important Nazi soirée. They actually fall in love and move to London, where they have a child together and live happily, until British Intelligence summon Max to their offices to inform him that Marianne may in fact be a double agent leaking information to the Nazis. There will be a sting operation to confirm this, and if she is, the rules are that Max will have to execute her by his own hand.

Pitt is sorely miscast here, in a role that plays to none of his strengths; he's aiming for a George Smiley-esque unreadable introvert, but too often comes across as wondering if he's left the iron on. Which leaves the heavy lifting to Cotillard, who is thankfully wholly able to carry any scene she appears in - but even she can only do so much in a plodding storyline which is only occasionally punctuated by any intrigue or excitement.

Zemeckis, master craftsman that he is, seems to be going through the motions, more interested in the period details that the story's romantic core. Is it Steven Knight's script? Possibly, although all of the ingredients are seemingly there. It's just simply be that no-one except Cottilard is on their A-game. Consequently an early set piece made of pure Hitchcock is a highlight, but beyond that everything - including what ought to be a bit of third act derring-do - feels a bit flat and pedestrian. It looks the part, but lacks heart - which, as you can imagine for a romantic thriller, is a bit of a problem.

ALLIED is released November 23 in the US, November 25 in the UK and December 26 in Australia and NZ.

Sam Toy (@samjuro)
tag:hardouthere.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1113458 2016-11-23T12:38:00Z 2016-12-07T00:59:20Z Review: BAD SANTA 2

Many of us never thought we’d get to see any more of Billy Bob Thornton’s Willie Soke. The misanthropic, alcoholic, part-time Santa/full time safe-cracker’s story seemed pretty much done by the time the credits rolled on his first piss-stained, profanity-and-bum-sex-filled story. But that story was a runaway hit, and if there’s one thing more reliable than a Christmas wish to get fans a sequel, it’s box office returns - no matter how far down the line.

So here we are, more than a decade later, and we quickly learn that in the interim, life has once again been unkind to Willie. Things are so bad that severely estranged partner in crime Marcus (Tony Cox) manages to lure him to work one – presumably last - giant score in Chicago, ripping off a Christmas charity run by Diane Hastings (Christina Hendricks) and her dodgy husband. Meanwhile, the now spectrum-placed Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly) is still somehow following Willie around like the one puppy the thief can’t bring himself to kick, and we’re introduced to the heist’s mastermind: Willie’s own mother (Kathy Bates).

It’s this angle that BAD SANTA 2 uses to explore new ground, and prevent it from being just a photocopy of the first film (but without the colossal, much missed talents of Bernie Mac and John Ritter). What and who made Willie the way he is? For the most part this works, thanks to the typically committed sparring between Thornton and the ever-reliable Bates giving everything to her unscrupulous character.

Less successful is the look of the film – it’s so damned dark. As in literally dark. The first film had its pitch-black antics play out against the sunny climes of Phoenix, but here we’re in mostly night and occasionally grey murk of a Chicago winter – even the lion’s share of the interiors are a homeless hostel and a roach motel, which begins to feel just a little too much. Director Mark Waters (MEAN GIRLS) attempts to counter this in the third act by again spotlighting the one unextinguished ember of humanity in Willie, but it feels a little heavy handed after Terry Zwigoff’s deft touch in the first film of that simple, stuffed pink elephant (which cameos here). Pleasingly though, the sulphurous barbs and insults – both verbal and physical - are all still present and very much accounted for, even if they’re wrapped in a messy plot.

Maybe if it wasn’t carrying the weight of expectations from its predecessor, we would be a bit more forgiving of BAD SANTA 2; it’s good for a naughty giggle, even if it’s not everything fans wished for. But then again, any BAD SANTA fan can quote you Willie’s line on wishing…

BAD SANTA 2 is released November 23 in the US and UK, and November 24 in Australia and NZ.

Sam Toy (@samjuro)
tag:hardouthere.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1119179 2016-11-17T04:54:00Z 2016-12-30T08:15:32Z Review: FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

The first of the inevitable spinoffs from the Harry Potter saga moves the action to 1920’s New York. From the immigration queues, we follow visiting English wizard and magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and his efforts to save endangered magical creatures. Or at least half of FANTASTIC BEASTS does. The other half concerns itself with setting up the other four projected films in this series, complete with another worrying, unseen dark force on the rise.

Redmayne brings  almost elf-like delicacy to Newt, while Dan Fogel brings heartful support as down on his luck no-maj (as muggles are referred to across the pond) Jacob Kowalski, who becomes entangled in Newt’s adventure courtesy of a luggage mix-up.

Meanwhile, magical society in the US has its own governing body, MACUSA (Magical Congess of the Unisted States of America), whose head of security Percival Graves (Colin Farrell) takes a disconcerting interest in the affairs of the puritanically anti-magic Barebone family led by matriarch Mary Lou (Samantha Morton), but in particular her whipping boy son Credence (Ezra Miller).

David Yates returns as director (his fifth film in the Potterverse), and delivers an effort tangibly consistent with his previous work. J.K. Rowling, this time on board as screenwriter, continues to wear her influences on her sleeve: a TARDIS-like suitcase, and Magneto-esque motivations from some of the antagonists, which will serendipitously serve the sequels if Warner Brothers are prepared to dive into the obvious parallels between the dark events of the 1930s and the demagoguery we’ve witnessed in 2016.

For all of the set-up and developments in FANTASTIC BEASTS (and perhaps because of it), it often feels like there are protracted periods in the film where not much is actually happening. Despite it’s two-plus hours running time, we don’t really to get to know many of the supporting characters very well (and some of whom become very important to the third act). It’s an accomplished, well-oiled exercise in world-building, like a huge budget HBO series where you have to wait two years between episodes, but there’s not quite enough going on right here and now for the film to truly dazzle as a standalone piece.

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM is released November 17 in Australia and New Zealand, and November 18 in the US and UK

Sam Toy (@samjuro)
tag:hardouthere.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1080587 2016-08-11T23:59:06Z 2016-08-12T00:03:47Z Review: SAUSAGE PARTY

Given the success and enduring popularity of SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT, animated movies that play on the naughty end of the spectrum have been relatively few and far between. Not much springs to mind since 2007’s AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE COLON MOVIE FILM FOR THEATERS. The reason of course, is money - there’s a reluctance from backers to mix R-rated humour with the shiny happy worlds of CG when they can profit so much more from simply not doing it. But tell that to Megan Ellison (ZERO DARK THIRTY, HER, FOXCATCHER), whose Annapurna Pictures has helped deliver the sweary, blasphemous SAUSAGE PARTY into the world.

On a supermarket shelf somewhere in America, it’s July 3rd. All Frank (Seth Rogen) and the fellow hotdogs in his packet want is to be taken, along with his girlfriend Brenda (Kristen Wiig) and the other buns in her bag, to enjoy eternity in ‘the great beyond’ by one of the ‘gods’ – human shoppers. Every ingredient and item of produce in the store has their own interpretation of what happens once they get past the sliding doors, but each happily believes that they’re headed for some form of paradise, because that’s all they’ve ever been told – until Honey Mustard (Danny McBride) is returned as a mistaken purchase. Twitching with PTSD, he’s seen some shit. At first, Frank can’t believe the now suicidal Honey Mustard’s nightmarish whistleblowing, but soon doubt creeps in. When a shopping trolley mishap (a supremely funny homage to... well, figure it out for yourself) strands Frank, Brenda and a few other items on the other side of the store, the weiner begins an epic spiritual journey and a race to save his recently purchased friends... while an angry pre-packaged Douche (Nick Kroll) with revenge on its mind is in hot pursuit.

In case you hadn’t guessed by now, SAUSAGE PARTY is a contender for the most baked screenplay ever written. If a fourth HAROLD AND KUMAR movie were to be made and centred on their efforts to write and make a movie, this would be that movie.

It’s crude, grubby, and outrageous. It’s jam-packed (no pun intended) with brilliant/dreadful food puns. It’s also frequently hilarious, and – quite unusually for a comedy – it gets better as it progresses, building to a batshit crazy third act piled with more sex and violence than CALIGULA. It’s also not without ambition. Rogen and co-writer Evan Goldberg (together responsible for SUPERBAD), and their directors Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon are aiming for an elusive sweet spot: to be a clever film masquerading as a dumb one.

Unfortunately they don’t always nail it – too often good ideas, arguments and jokes are hamstrung by cheap, tired racial stereotypes and over-egged efforts to shock; having characters swear is a genuinely funny device, but trying to ram it into even the most incidental line comes off as trying way too hard.

It’s a shame because it’s nothing that couldn’t have been fixed with a little more drafting (and maybe a little less weed). Instead, amidst otherwise excellent execution these basic mistakes stand out, over-amplified in a movie with an honest case to make. By today's lofty standards the animation won't win any big awards, but the cast of mostly longtime friends (Michael Cera, David Krumholtz, Jonah Hill, Bill Hader, James Franco, Craig Robinson, Paul Rudd) with notable ring-ins Edward Norton and Salma Hayek, are on fine form.

SAUSAGE PARTY is released August 11 in Australia and NZ, August 12 in the US and September 2 in the UK.

Sam Toy (@samjuro)
tag:hardouthere.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1080943 2016-08-03T02:00:00Z 2016-08-13T23:44:53Z Review: SUICIDE SQUAD

If BATMAN VS SUPERMAN hadn’t made about US$1 squillion at the box office, you’d almost have to feel sorry for Warner Bros. and DC. All of that good will earned from the dizzying heights of the Nolan DARK KNIGHT trilogy feels but a distant memory, and SUICIDE SQUAD puts those halcyon days even further over the horizon.

It was obviously seen as an economical way to quickly expand the DC cinematic universe ahead of their big gamble: next year’s JUSTICE LEAGUE, but once again, in their rush Warners (this time handing chief responsibility to writer/director David Ayer) has forgotten to tell a coherent story.

It’s really difficult to understate what a hot mess SUICIDE SQUAD is, but the first alarm bells start ringing in the opening minutes. In a Louisiana maximum security prison, we’re introduced to Deadshot (Will Smith), and then Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). We then break to a secret government meeting between the stony Amanda Wallace (Viola Davis), who outlines her plan to create a squad of ‘the worst of the worst’ currently in custody, forcing them to do the jobs that no-one else will, or possibly can. Cue some character introductions replete with title cards, beginning with… Deadshot and Harley Quinn. That’s right, within ten minutes we have redundant scenes. As if this problem needed compounding, one future member of the squad is left off of this roll call. It’s a clear, breezy ‘up yours’ to anyone with a memory longer than a snapchat.

The plot from there on in is similarly nonsensical. It should have been a simple INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS guys(-and-girls)-on-a-mission movie, only the script has clearly been shredded mid-shoot. It feels like Ayer was jettisoning scenes right after they were shot, as every day notes from the studio kept arriving, contradicting those he had been given the day before, and the day before that.

Then there’s characterisation: someone, somewhere along the line, has a problem trusting the audience with the concept of an anti-hero. Deadshot for example, beyond Smith’s solid performance, is motivated wholly by his love for his daughter, and claims to have been a wholly honourable professional assassin – he’s never spilled innocent blood. In actual fact, he’s really not that different from AMERICAN SNIPER’s Chris Kyle, especially if you believe the stories about what he did during the aftermath of hurricane Katrina (incidentally, Scott Eastwood appears as part of the military team accompanying the squad). This lot are supposed to be the worst of the worst, but few of them seem at all properly villainous – that’s left to Jared Leto’s Joker (really rather good in the 15 or so minutes of screen time he gets), and the big bads: ancient witch Enchantress (Cara Delavigne) and her brother Incubus (Alain Chanoine), who in looks, intent and dullness are a cocktail equal parts Gozer from GHOSTBUSTERS and Apocalypse from X:MEN APOCALYPSE.

Thankfully, not every character is wasted – Robbie embodies the mad Harley Quinn perfectly, and of the characters that aren’t short-changed with screen time, she alone gets through the film unscathed. Not physically, of course – that would be too straightforward for this production, but despite the rather disproportionate amount of abuse doled out to her (electrocuted, force fed, sent through a car windshield, punched, throttled and more), it’s a strong, focused performance.

The other thing that works in the film’s favour is the conscious attempt to bring more levity – rumour has it this was one of the studio notes, and it was for the best - more wouldn’t have hurt.

Behind the camera, there’s a significantly more saturated colour palate than the two Zack Snyder Superman films, but still a dark look. And – again – strangely for a film this expensive, there’s a curiously small scale to the whole thing. When the supernatural crisis develops, Midway City is quickly and conveniently evacuated - most of which happens in tight shots or off screen altogether. There are significantly more extras (real, CG or otherwise) in Game Of Thrones’ Battle of the Bastards than there are in the whole of SUICIDE SQUAD, leaving the action with a rather low-rent feel.

The timing and pacing are an ongoing shitshow. When the squad is assembled for the first time, they’re told to hurry into their kit before ‘wheels up in 10 minutes’. Once they’re in the thick of it, they (and we) are told that the crisis they have been sent to fix actually started three days ago. Technically it makes sense, but it’s distractingly messy, and clearly a wallpaper job. At around the midpoint, the true stakes of the mission are revealed to them (end of the world stuff), and they are given permission to walk away. The larrakin Boomerang (Jai Courtney) immediately does so, getting one of the best laughs in the film, but reappears in the very next scene. Ayer just can’t – or isn’t being allowed to – make up his mind.

Then there’s the music. Despite the big/McLarge/huge budget (the first 15 minutes burns through more money in rights than most entire movies), there’s a whole separate essay in how misjudged SUICIDE SQUAD’s soundtrack and its clumsy application is - suffice to say that it’s been selected by old people who don’t understand their target audience; it’s your Dad trying to program a playlist for a sweet 16 party with only his own CD collection – great songs they may be, but you might have to skew a little more recent than Eminem or circa 2013 Kanye West if you want to be down with the kids.

They even manage to cock up the post-credits sting. Those who will take time to wait for it will typically be the big fans, and there’s nothing here they won’t have already watched two weeks ago in the Comic Con JUSTICE LEAGUE footage reel (or indeed was on the clip reel dropped into BATMAN VS SUPERMAN). It tells you nothing you didn’t already know, and only succeeds in tying the ‘good guys’ further into ethical knots.

It might all seem more admirable if they were trying to invent something completely new, but no-one is re-inventing the wheel here; the fact that they're just hurriedly copying someone else's formula makes it worse. There are kernels of fun and excitement here and there, but in terms of being blatantly mangled by its creators and mostly just plain stupid, SUICIDE SQUAD is down there with last year’s FANTASTIC FOUR. At least this has a few more laughs and its winning Harley Quinn/Joker double act going for it.

SUICIDE SQUAD is released August 4 in Australia and NZ, and August 5 in the US and the UK.

Sam Toy (@samjuro)
tag:hardouthere.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1082645 2016-08-03T02:00:00Z 2016-08-20T08:41:22Z Review: ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS

Eddie and Patsy are back. We’re not 100% sure why now in particular, but they’re always welcome, and fortunately neither Jennifer Saunders’ feel for her creations nor her gag writing ability have diminished at all in their years of absence.

Edina Monsoon’s (Saunders) PR business is in trouble, and her client list is looking decidedly anaemic. Hearing that Kate Moss is leaving her PR, Eddie immediately sets out to woo the supermodel. This all goes screamingly wrong, and sees Eddie and lifelong reprobate bestie Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley) on the lam in the south of France.

ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS: THE MOVIE, to give its full title, follows in the grand tradition of British TV series making the leap to the big screen with no real reason for doing so, and little more than a Christmas Special’s worth of budget to get by on. But get by they do, and the cameras a dutifully switched over to progressive frame rate.

It’s silly, unfocused plot passes up elements and ideas that would have given the film more purpose and relevance - the hunt for a missing-presumed-dead Moss completely dominates the news cycle while far more important things are happening, for example, or the increased sense of entitlement of Eddie & Patsy’s set since they we last saw them, for another. Instead it pretty much boils down to “it’s hard growing old” – which is particularly rich coming from the vacuous, superficial, freeloading, husband-leeching Eddie - but the vitriolic barbs and zingers that fly from the pair (though let’s face it, mostly Patsy) are just enough to fill in the cracks.

There’s an almost endless parade of cameos all game for sending themselves up, and nearly every recurring character from the show (though sadly not Adrian Edmonson’s food critic) gets a look-in, with Kathy Burke’s magazine editor easily the scenery-devouring standout, while Barry Humphries makes a very welcome and memorably repulsive first appearance.

Much like ALAN PARTRIDGE: ALPHA PAPA – dedicated fans are going to really love this Ab Fab top-up in the moment, but once the glitter settles we’ll be wishing something more had been made of the opportunity.

ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS: THE MOVIE is released July 1 in the UK, July 22 in the US, August 4 in Australia and August 12 in NZ.

Sam Toy (@samjuro)
tag:hardouthere.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1078136 2016-08-02T12:55:17Z 2016-08-02T13:05:20Z Review: JASON BOURNE

We’re now fourteen years into the on-screen Bourne series: five films in total, with three of those – including JASON BOURNE - created by the star/director/editor team of Matt Damon, Paul Greengrass and Christopher Rouse respectively.

Normally editors don’t get a mention in such groupings, but Rouse (who has cut all of Greengrass’ films since 2004’s THE BOURNE SUPREMACY) is of particular interest here not only because his cutting style has helped define the series, but also because for the first time he is here also credited as a co-screenwriter. Sadly though, in this particular instance that’s not going to make for a great calling card.

Ignoring 2012’s nearly Bourne-less THE BOURNE LEGACY, it’s been nearly ten years since the super spy was last seen. He’s been laying low, still stricken with guilt over what memories he has managed to retain, while simultaneously making enough money to survive and punish himself by allowing his bare knuckles boxing opponents to land more blows than they would ever realistically have a chance of achieving.

That changes when fellow ex-spook Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), now an activist and hacker, re-enters Bourne’s life with more important information about his past. She also knows what the ‘Treadstone’ program Bourne was a part of is soon about to evolve into: the sinister sounding ‘Iron Hand’. This instantly catches the attention of crochety-old-white-dude-in-charge-of-the-CIA-du-jour Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones), who again sees Bourne as a threat and wants him immediately removed from the picture by fair means or foul.

JASON BOURNE has no problem providing evidence of the character’s continued relevance, wasting no time in dropping us into an austerity riot in Greece for its first big action sequence (handled, along with the rest of them, as magnificently as we’ve come to expect), and proceeds to deliver an avalanche of instantly recognisable references to all of the big government intrusion issues of the last decade: Edward Snowden, Wikileaks, the recent FBI vs. Apple phone security tussle, etc.. And of course, true to the series we’re constantly reminded of the reach of State-sponsored surveillance, and how easily it can be (and too often has been) abused.

Damon still fits the part perfectly, while Jones doesn’t need to stray far from his comfort zone to fulfill his duties. Bizarrely, the normally super-reliable Stiles appears to have forgotten how to act, turning in a distractingly wooden performance, although in fairness at least part of that should be chalked up to the lumbering exposition she’s saddled with. Getting far better shrift is Alicia Vikander as Dewey’s shrewd Millennial subordinate, who is less than convinced that Bourne needs to die (on a related note, Joan Allen’s Pamela Landy is – unless I missed something - conspicuous by her complete absence). The by now familiar, interchangeable role of 'asset' this time goes to the always excellent Vincent Cassell, while Riz Ahmed makes a good fist of his Zuckerberg-like part.

But for the first time, at the heart of the impeccably oiled action machine there feels a heavy-handedness to the storytelling – familial revelations (not far from Bond’s Austin Powers moment earlier this year, although this hits far closer to the mark than SPECTRE managed) feel like a lowballing plot device, while other genre tropes surface which are so old they actually induce giggles when they’re are dusted off (prepare your spy movie bingo cards now). There’s a lack of attention to realistic detail that the first three movies strove for; as Bourne hammers around Las Vegas in a luxury sedan, its airbag steadfastly refuses to deploy, even as it is ploughed into a casino marquee (despite Vincent Cassel having established earlier in the film that this is indeed a universe where automotive crash safety features do exist and function, even in a significantly cheaper vehicle). Place this against Bourne’s intelligent use of the humble seatbelt as he reverses a Mercedes off of a carpark roof in ULTIMATUM. Similarly, Snowden is sloppily misrepresented every time his name is mentioned.

But it’s all relative, of course: despite its flaws, JASON BOURNE is still a better, more cerebral action movie than most (especially this year), still managing to move with terrific strength and precision, and is worthy of your time – it only feels underwhelming by the near impossibly high standards of its predecessors.

JASON BOURNE is released July 28 in Australia and New Zealand, and July 29 in the US and UK.

Sam Toy (@samjuro)
tag:hardouthere.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1075365 2016-07-19T14:31:00Z 2016-07-23T14:45:00Z Review: LOVE & FRIENDSHIP

Having Whit Stillman (BARCELONA, THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO, DAMSELS IN DISTRESS) adapt Jane Austen to the screen seems so screamingly obvious in hindsight – both are overly talky in their storytelling and prone to mopey characters. The exception here though, is that LOVE & FRIENDSHIP is one of the less common Austen comedies (from her novella ‘Lady Susan’).

In late 18th century England, the widowed Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) has quite the reputation. After being ejected from the hospitality of the Manwaring family (for seducing Mr. Manwaring), she is taken in by her brother in-law Charles Vernon (Justin Edwards) and his family at the Churchill estate. With her American confidant Alicia Johnson (Chloe Sevigny) and little real regard for anyone else, she proceeds to cause all manner of mannered havoc as she attempts to marry off her daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark) and herself to secure their place in high society.

The first half is suitably Austenian – setting up loads of intricately knotted character relationships and then having them talk a hundred miles a minute about something that recently happened to someone else in a place other than the room they’re currently in. Witticisms abound of course, but then around the mid point, something actually happens (on screen, no less!), giving proceedings a much-needed boost. This is also around the time we are introduced to the film’s secret weapon: the delightfully dim (or as his caption describes him, ‘a bit of a rattle’) Sir James Martin, from a film-stealing performance by Tom Bennett.

Beckinsale and Sevigny – both re-teaming with Stillman after THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO - spark wonderfully off of one another. Their utter obliviousness to their servants doing the real work is a superb running gag, and at their most outrageous they bring to mind a couple of foremothers to Ab Fab’s Edina & Patsy. As long as it has us laughing, it's terrific - but in the dry patches, for those who can take or leave Austen’s style this begins very quickly to feel like very slow going, and like so much of Stillman's work; just a bunch of poshos with pretend problems.

LOVE & FRIENDSHIP is released May 27 in the UK, June 3 in the US, and July 21 in Australia.

Sam Toy (@samjuro)
tag:hardouthere.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1075105 2016-07-15T00:22:00Z 2016-07-22T12:25:11Z Review: GHOSTBUSTERS (2016)

In the golden age of idea recycling, the most remarkable thing about a trip back to the GHOSTBUSTERS well is how long it’s taken to get here.  But 27 years since their last big screen appearance, here we are – and in the reliable hands of Paul Feig (BRIDESMAIDS, THE HEAT, SPY), no less.

Firstly, it’s worth pointing out up front that this is a bona fide reboot/origin story, rather than a tenuous sequel: feel free to keep your eyes peeled for cameos from nearly all of the major players from the original (Harold Ramis included), but don’t expect to see Venkman, Stantz, Spengler or Zeddmore pop up any time soon. In their stead, the soon to be Busters are now made up of Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), a physicist in denial of her paranormal past - in particular a book she wrote with estranged best friend Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), which has now resurfaced on Amazon just as Erin is seeking tenure with a prestigious University. Abby though, still very much dedicated to the spook hunting cause, is these days kicking around with new lab partner/nuclear engineer/general oddball Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). After a terrific opening sequence (largely courtesy of Silicon Valley’s Zach Woods and his wonderfully unique comedy chops), the three are called on to investigate one of New York’s haunted mansions, and history is made. And speaking of history, the trio will soon become a quartet when joined by NY subway worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), who brings indispensable knowledge of the city’s geography and past.

Perhaps because so much has changed since the franchise was last on the big screen, Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold eschew all but the largest story beats to make way for new angles, details, characters and jokes. There is now a human villain – a palid, pasty nutter genius who’s been bullied way past breaking point (Neil Casey), but has, ahem, confused rights with privilege, and has now hatched a mad, self-aggrandising scheme. Of course the Environmental Protection Agency are no longer the (opaque) secondary bad guys – that mantle is now taken up by an array of online haters (meta, much?), and a mayor (Andy Garcia) who wants them to keep doing their fine work without getting any credit whatsoever. One of the film’s most interesting new ideas is how difficult it is to get to the truth in today’s world – from crazed internet trolls and suggestions of fabrication-by-photoshop on one hand, to a cover-up happy government keen to avoid mass hysteria on the other; in the jaded age of unchecked internet bullshit and professionally spun PR, it’s just become so hard for the real deal to get through.

What Feig’s GHOSTBUSTERS has over Ivan Reitman’s original, is superior production value. Not only do the ghosts themselves look as amazing today (in their own way) as they did to the audiences of 1984, but there’s a slickness and attention to detail overall in this version that Ivan Reitman either didn’t have the budget for or simply wasn’t too concerned with. And 3D is well deployed, too, with Feig utilising a literal framing device (not seen since LIFE OF PI) for an extra bit of fun.

But while Feig and Dippold get a lot of little things right, it too often feels like they’re struggling with the big stuff. Virtually all of the laughs come from smaller moments (a running gag about takeaway Chinese dumplings is one for the ages) and interplay between the uniformly excellent cast, including Chris Hemsworth as a dippy secretary - but it just feels like there needed to be a few more killer lines. Perhaps it’s the constraints of having to stay inside the PG rating, but this doesn’t feel as hilarious as BRIDESMAIDS or THE HEAT (maybe on par with SPY?). The set pieces too, are hit and miss – a ‘rock concert’ is less believable than the ghost that invades it (why does Hollywood have such a difficult time getting rock’n’roll right?), while the climax involves taking Times Square back to the 1970s for reasons that seem to have ended up on the cutting room floor (likewise a dance sequence that has been relegated to the end credits).

Overall though, it’s considerably more hit than miss. In fact, the only thing that you could really say sucks about the new GHOSTBUSTERS is a reworking of the theme by Fallout Boy. Yes, that’s right:  the shittest thing about a movie copping hideous flak for having the tenacity to have an all female cast, is a terrible cover by a band named Fallout Boy. Oh, and indeed, the irony.

GHOSTBUSTERS is released July 14 in Australia and NZ, and July 15 in the US and the UK

Sam Toy (@samjuro)
tag:hardouthere.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1070572 2016-07-07T06:47:49Z 2016-07-08T04:38:31Z Review: GOLDSTONE

We’re halfway through 2016, but let’s just call it: you’re not going to see a better Australian film this year than Ivan Sen’s massively entertaining contemporary Australian Western, GOLDSTONE.

Aaron Pedersen returns as detective Jay Swan, and the intervening years since 2013’s MYSTERY ROAD haven’t been kind to him. He’s been sent to the titular, deeply isolated outback mining community (to call it a town would be overstating the case) to investigate the disappearance of a Chinese migrant, but soon finds more.

Almost immediately, he’s locking horns with Josh (Alex Russell), Goldstone’s local cop with problems of his own – the kind that get slid across desks in brown paper bags. Doing the sliding is Johnny (David Wenham), head honcho of the all-powerful mining operation, who needs some obstacles in the form of Aboriginal land rights (represented by David Gulpillil’s Jimmy, and Tommy Lewis as the head of the local indigenous land council) worked around – at any price, and he’s already got the whole-hearted support of Jacki Weaver’s local mayor Maureen (although exactly what she’s mayor of is anyone’s guess).

What makes it all so unnerving though, as Jay's and Josh's cases begin to inevitably coincide, is the palpable sense of isolation. This sequel's setting makes even MYSTERY ROAD’s township seem like a bustling metropolis – and it’s this which only strengthens GOLDSTONE’s ties to the Western. It may be the 21st century, but out here it’s still very much ‘anything goes’. There’s rule of law in theory, but if anything bad goes down, the cavalry's not getting here any time soon. More than that, private security forces have total sovereignty over their borders; the power of life and death over anyone who trespasses.

Writer/director/cinematographer/editor/composer Sen is at the top of his game here, barely putting a foot wrong in any of those key roles. GOLDSTONE carries over certain thematic shots central to MYSTERY ROAD's exceptional look (vast exteriors and God's eye view) and expands on them - the neon-soaked interiors are strikingly beautiful in their own right. His minimalist, atmospheric score is beautiful, and once again he finds a new and interesting way to film a shootout. His screenplay taps into a myriad of ugly undercurrents bubbling just beneath the surface of Australian culture (contemporary and historical), and it’s this area more than any other that GOLDSTONE outshines its predecessor. The conflicts extend beyond the obvious – white on black, black on black, white on white – and for the most part, they’re played out with delicious, noirish hints and allegories. As Jimmy sagely points out, “everyone who comes here ends up worshipping the same god.”

It’s not quite perfect – at least one minor character feels underused, while there’s occasionally too much(!) subtext beneath the interactions of main players, so that the superficialities of the scene feel unnatural/unbelievable. The most obvious minor oversight is in failing to sufficiently reign in Wenham’s penchant for over-egging his characters (in this case his VERY LOUD costume)*, but these are very minor misgivings against a very long list of achievements.

A supremely confident film from a filmmaker who has hit full stride, we rarely get half of what is served up in GOLDSTONE; to see it all wrapped so elegantly in such thrilling and engrossing genre entertainment is a mighty gift. Gripping from the first frame, this isn’t just Australia’s finest film of 2016, it's one of Australia's finest films.

* In fairness, I initially had similar feelings about Hugo Weaving’s character in MYSTERY ROAD which on repeat viewings I no longer have a problem with.

GOLDSTONE is released July 7 in Australia.

Sam Toy (@samjuro)
tag:hardouthere.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1075450 2016-06-28T23:00:00Z 2016-07-23T23:56:24Z Review: CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE

Filmmakers seem to be having difficulty cutting their films to Kevin Hart’s performance rhythms. He’s clearly a funny guy, but something was off-kilter about the recent RIDE ALONG 2, and now we have similar problems in CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE. It’s not a film-swallowing crisis by any means, but it does seem to be doing the comedian something of a disservice.

Hart is Calvin Joyner, a man only too aware that his life peaked in high school. He was also the only one who was nice to obese bully-magnet Robbie Wheirdict (Dwayne Johnson). Just prior to their 20 year reunion, Robbie contacts with Calvin. He's changed his name to Stone and, well, metamorphasised in Dwayne Johnson. He's also an undercover agent for the CIA, and he now needs Calvin’s help to find a ne'rdowell he calls 'The Black Badger', while avoiding his own side who think he’s gone rogue.

The lines are frequently funny (and there's a god serve of them), but the timing is just a little… off, suggesting that many of the scenes were improvised under multiple cameras and had difficulty keeping pace with the performers.

Johnson meanwhile once again proves himself a more than able comic with a willingness to take risks with his own persona. He inhabits Robbie with an interesting oddness; here is a guy who is still the same dork he was in high school, but now nobody dares mess with, and indeed many people want to be him.

The film around both men is far from a smooth ride, though. No-one - including director Rawson Marshall Thurber – seems too perturbed with a subplot involving the CIA torturing one of their own, only to find out they were barking up the wrong tree. This is simply apologised for and brushed aside, and for some reason it’s not even a joke. It’s a strange, uneven effort, one that has only just enough jokes and charm from its talented leads to cover its’ many holes.

CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE is released June 17 in the US, June 29 in the UK, and June 30 in Australia and New Zealand

Sam Toy (@samjuro)
tag:hardouthere.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1065973 2016-06-23T14:28:00Z 2016-07-07T06:52:56Z Review: HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE

Writer/director/"third Conchord" Taika Waititi returns to the fertile comic territory ploughed so effectively by BOY and WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS for this all ages adventure comedy, adapted from the legendary Kiwi author Barry Crump's novel. That territory is gang/gangsta life, and Waititi just can't stop laughing at the inherent absurdities of everything about it, especially when it's being emulated and idolised by the confused men of semi-rural New Zealand.

As she drops the thoroughly hip hop-outfitted Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) off at his new home on a remote farm, child services officer Paula (Rachel House) informs fresh foster parent Bella (Rima Te Waita) that the 13 year old is "a real bad egg." She then goes on to list Ricky's dangerous qualities: "graffitiing, littering, smashing stuff, burning stuff, breaking stuff, stealing stuff, throwing rocks and running away." Clearly public enemy number one. Nevertheless, Bella is delighted to have him, even if her loner husband Hec (Sam Neill) isn't keen on company of any kind.

Soon enough though, a strange series of events will have the two males on the run together, hiding out in thousands of hectares of mountainous terrain, pursued by the relentless, petty Paula and a lot of cops. At first they're a bewilderment to one another, united by a common language but culturally poles apart, but of course the relationship warms, despite injuries, hunger, and the odd wild animal attack.

Once again, Waititi makes his gift for comedy seem effortless. As the chase escalates, the laughs continue to land often and accurately, mostly at the expense of Ricky's insistence that he is destined for the 'skux life.' His biggest win though, comes in finding a kid who can carry the film, and in that respect Dennison is a revelation, even when he's getting typically strong support from Neill, Rhys Darby as a nutty hermit, and even Waititi himself.

Though they feel similar, WILDERPEOPLE is a zanier film than BOY, and with its vaguely '80s retro vibe (though it's set in the present), all the better for it. Not all of the choices work, and it feels just a fraction overlong (breaking the narrative into chapters doesn't help), but otherwise it's a hundred or so of the more joyous and hilarious minutes you'll spend in a cinema this year. And no, you're not going to be able to get the birthday song out of your head for days.

HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE is released March 31 in NZ, May 26 in Australia, June 24 in the US and September 16 in the UK.

Sam Toy (@samjuro)
tag:hardouthere.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1056745 2016-05-28T04:00:24Z 2016-05-28T04:00:24Z Speed Review: GREEN ROOM

Writer/director Jeremy Saulnier (who last made the amazing BLUE RUIN) packs plenty of grit and tension into his third feature, a claustrophobic 90 minute seige thriller. Left wing punk band The Ain't Rights witness a murder backstage at a skinhead club, and are soon trapped in the titular space, fighting for their lives. Sounds a bit silly, but Saulnier economically crafts well-rounded characters on both sides to make credible decisions amidst the chaos, while constantly shifting the upper hand between the two camps, to often nail-biting effect.

Not that you'd know it from the utterly piss-poor marketing campaign from this film's Australian distributors (a single, solitary poster in each participating cinema), GREEN ROOM is in cinemas from May 26, but probably won't stay long.

Sam Toy (@samjuro)
tag:hardouthere.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1065958 2016-05-09T02:00:00Z 2016-06-28T12:00:06Z Review: BASTILLE DAY

Despite the obvious unfortunate timing for a film set in Paris involving terrorism, James Watkins’ BASTILLE DAY seems like an exciting proposition on paper. Watkins has enjoyed a reputation for making the most out of his projects – both EDEN LAKE and THE WOMAN IN BLACK were pleasant genre surprises full of smart choices, so this modestly budgeted Bourne-a-like could easily have been expected to follow suit.

Sadly that’s turned out not to be the case, and even the mighty shoulders of Idris Elba can’t prop up a too-daft, heard-it-all-before script. Richard Madden’s down on his luck pickpocket catches the attention of Elba’s CIA agent when the thief steals the wrong bag, which contains a bomb that was supposed to be planted in the offices of a right wing political party by an unwilling novice extremist (Charlotte LeBon), who lost her bottle when she discovered innocent cleaners were still in the building. The blast instead occurs in public, creating carnage and chaos for all sides.

It’s a promising start, but despite a pacey running time, BASTILLE DAY gradually dissolves into inanity. Watkins shares writing credit with Andrew Baldwin (who clearly wrote this as an audition piece for his forthcoming Jeremy Renner Bourne spinoff sequel), but it lacks any of the ingenuity of Watkins’ earlier screenplays; his main achievements here are as director, where he does at least manage to notch up some impressive set pieces (bringing a few new tricks to the ‘rooftop chase’ and ‘fight in the back of a moving vehicle’ staples), even if film’s connective tissue remains lacking.

Elba acquits himself perfectly well, even though he’s way above the material here, and doesn’t really need to prove his action credentials (maybe the promise of allowing him to sing the theme song over the end credits was the appeal?), but he’s hindered by a wooden Madden, who just can’t bring any energy to what should be a supremely charismatic character. Le Bon is fine, while Kelly Reilly dutifully fulfills a thankless expositional role.

It’s tight, it’s punchy, and it doesn’t drag on – if BASTILLE DAY could just have been smarter, we could have been looking at a minor classic, but it is lacking less than je ne sais quoi.

BASTILLE DAY is released April 22 in the UK, and May 12 in Australia and NZ.

Sam Toy (@samjuro)
tag:hardouthere.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1032556 2016-04-13T15:52:35Z 2016-04-13T15:52:35Z Review: THE JUNGLE BOOK (2016)

After a brief and successful sojourn from the deep end of Hollywood money pool, Jon Favreau returns with a retelling of Disney’s take on Rudyard Kipling’s THE JUNGLE BOOK, bringing more photorealistic animals and less imperialism/racism.

As a technical achievement, it’s hugely impressive. Essentially using the same approach as Alfonso Cuaron’s GRAVITY, Favreau’s team of animators fashion a richly detailed and never less than wholly believable Indian jungle entirely from 1s and 0s. Similarly, the animal cast are beautifully rendered, voiced to a one by an array of stars who are simultaneously instantly recognisable and magnificent vocal performers: Sir Ben Kingsley as the stoic panther Bagheera, Idris Elba as menacing tiger Shere Khan, Lupita Nyong’o and Giancarlo Esposito as wolf parents Raksha and Akela, Bill Murray as a decidedly Bill Murray-esque slacker bear Baloo, Christopher Walken as the disconcertingly ambitious King Louie (here cleverly avoiding Disney’s original foul up by shifting his character to a power-hungry, Colonel Kurtz-like Gigantopithecus), and Scarlett Johansson as the enormous hypnotic python Kaa.

Which leaves Mowgli - the only human in the story and the only performer filmed as themself - played by Neel Sethi, who is at a double disadvantage; he’s good if not great in the role, and his natural American accent here does him no favours (Bill Murray gets away with it, as he gets away with almost anything; likewise you’re not hearing Walken speak American – you’re hearing Walken speak Walken). Sethi’s other problem is entirely beyond his control: in any given frame, his very physical presence is the odd thing out, and while most of the time the compositing that places him in the 'jungle' is top notch, there are moments (possibly exacerbated by 3D) which while tiny, are enough to snag your eye on and detract from the overall effect.

Disney diehards will be pleased that a couple of songs remain and this version of the story is largely intact (not to mention a few improvements to cultural sensitivities), while Uncle Walt’s haterers will be pacified by Favreau’s tendency to largely steer away from cheap sentimentality. Of course older viewers - even those who never saw the 1967 animated version - will never not know where it's going at any given moment, but it’s nonetheless a worthy update of a familiar favourite; a family film that doesn't completely honey-coat life and death in the animal world – humans included.

THE JUNGLE BOOK is released April 7 in Australia and NZ, and April 15 in the US and UK

Sam Toy (@samjuro)
tag:hardouthere.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1031684 2016-04-06T02:00:00Z 2016-04-12T14:28:23Z Review: THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER'S WAR

2012’s SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN was one of those strange and curious blockbusters that, much like the recent BATMAN VS SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, managed to do exceptionally well at the box office despite most people having not much good to say about most of it. But rules is rules: if it makes money, it gets a sequel, so here we are with the essentially Snow White-less WINTER’S WAR.

The plot thickly bookends the first film; in the first act, before Snow White’s story, it’s revealed that the evil Ravenna (Charlize Theron) has a sister, Freya (Emily Blunt). Tragedy awakens her supernatural control of ice, and she leaves Rivenna’s domain for the North, establishing her own realm where she kidnaps kids and turns them into her army of cold-hearted warriors. Yes, WINTER’S WAR is essentially to FROZEN what Zack Snyder is to any DC Comics hero or heroine you care to name.

And like Snyder’s superhero mash-up, this makes for messy storytelling, equal parts confusing and ‘meh’, something about needing to get the mirror back. Chris Hemsworth, returning as the titular Huntsman, is clearly doing his damndest to inject some charm and warmth into proceedings, but is still having trouble with his Scots accent - although he fares better than Jessica Chastain; we’ll let you know what her dialect was when we get the results back from the lab. Nick Frost is the only returning dwarf, Nion, this time accompanied by the gruff Gryff (Rob Brydon), the sweet-natured Doreena (Alexandra Roach), and sweary highlight Mrs Bronwyn (Sheridan Smith).

There are a few plus points: some of the creature designs are excellent, and the cast - despite the unworthy material - don’t waste a thing. But Evan Spiliotopolous and Craig Mazin’s script is pish, and the fight scenes are the usual shot-too-close cluster bomb of over-editing that plagues current movies – director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, (who served as visual effects director on the first film) while showing hints promise, still has a thing or two to learn about in-camera action.

THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER'S WAR is released April 4 in the UK, April 7 in Australia and NZ, and April 22 in the US.

Sam Toy (@samjuro)
tag:hardouthere.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1013499 2016-03-08T14:43:00Z 2016-03-15T00:01:17Z Review: (THE BROTHERS) GRIMSBY

In a perfect world, Sacha Baron Cohen should have about now been well on his way to revealing a tremendous Freddie Mercury biopic. Sadly, we don’t live in that world, and thanks to some bonkers choices by the producers of that project, the BORAT and THE DICTATOR frontman parted creative company with them some time ago, and has returned more or less to familiarly outrageous ground with GRIMSBY

Nobby Butcher (Baron Cohen) and his younger brother Sebastian (Mark Strong) were separated as orphaned children. Nobby stayed in their home town of Grimsby in Northern England, and grew into a work-shy, football loving father of somewhere around 11 children. Sebastian on the other hand, became one of MI6’s finest secret agents. Nobby finally tracks down his brother, only to cause a major international incident, and the two must go on the run to prevent a major terrorist plot and clear their names.

As Ali G and Borat have repeatedly proven, Baron Cohen is a smart, sharp comedian. As the rest of his output proves, he loves pushing the boundaries of taste. With THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY, he’s lost none of his penchant for outrageousness – his ability to take a revolting gag and then ram it through taste’s looking glass (so to speak) remains almost unparalleled, and all while managing for the most part to keep things barely on the right side of offensive. He does this by ‘punching up’, and playing Nobby as the underdog – the ‘workless class’ yob whose entire community has been written off by wealthier society (think TV’s Shameless). However there are also some lazy misses: Nobby likes fat women, ha ha ha. It’s also Baron Cohen’s thinnest premise yet, and basically just an excuse for as many dick, bum and bukkake jokes he can cram in. Not that there’s anything wrong with that of course, just don’t expect this one to be a film with much to say – and that’s unusual.

You’d have never guessed from the trailer, but the film has a surprisingly polished look, courtesy of action director Louis Letterier (THE TRANSPORTER; THE INCREDIBLE HULK; NOW YOU SEE ME) and his team. But the real winner here is Mark Strong, so willing to go along into so many degrading scenarios and be the straight man to Nobby’s neverending incompetence.

It’s by no means a great film - possibly even Baron Cohen’s weakest (depending on what you thought of ALI G: IN DA HOUSE and BRÜNO) - but for those who can stomach the sheer volume of sphincters, scrotums and fluids on show, it’ll be mission accomplished for THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY, but only just.

(THE BROTHERS) GRIMSBY is released February 24 in the UK, March 10 in Australia and NZ, and March 11 in the US

Sam Toy (@samjuro)