Movie Review – It Follows

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– Summary –

Director :  David Robert Mitchell
Year Of Release :   2015
Principal Cast :  Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi, Lili Sepe, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary, Bailey Spry, Debbie Williams.
Approx Running Time :   100 Minutes
Synopsis:   A young woman is followed by an unknown supernatural force after getting involved in a sexual encounter.
What we think :  Gut-churning horror doesn’t get much better than this, David Mitchell’s tour-de-force of psych-and-sex terror that will have you unwittingly gripping those sitting next to you so painfully tight, you won’t notice them doing the same thing back to you. Unswervingly evil, relentlessly visceral, It Follows is one of the best films of the year, horror or otherwise. Dynamite stuff.

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Don’t have sex. Ever. Or ever again.

Folks who decry horror movies for being unoriginal, or old-hat, or passe, and who claim the genre merely retreads itself more and more each passing year, should know that these days, they’re living in fantasy land. Recently, the horror genre has really begun to rise above its schlock 80’s roots, and there are an increasing number of films coming out that, although firmly within the genre’s DNA, remarkably fresh and effective. Good horror doesn’t need to be particularly bloody, or titillating to make audiences squirm, they just have to have interesting characters. Recent efforts like The Babadook, The Conjuring, and now It Follows, have set a very high bar for other film-makers to follow, both with effective mood-chills and outright scares. And I think I’ve come up with the clue to help wannabe directors to achieve success in this regard.

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Movie Review – Spongebob Movie, The: Sponge Out Of Water

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– Summary –

Director :   Paul Tibbitt
Year Of Release :   2015
Principal Cast :  Antonio Banderas, Voices of Tom Kenny, Clancy Brown, Bill Fagerbakke, Mr Lawrence, Caroline Lawrence, Rodger Bumpass, Matt Berry.
Approx Running Time :  92 Minutes
Synopsis:   Spongebob and his friends have to save their work from the nefarious plans of a diabolical pirate, who wants the secret Krabby Patty formula all to himself.
What we think :  Zany, whacky, crazy; all words to describe Spongebob Squarepants and his second feature film as it skits between parody, non-sequitur and witless inanity with the abandon of care we’ve come to expect. With both excellent 2D animation, some spectacular 3D CG and live action footage, Sponge Out Of Water is a breathlessly paced venture into the psychedelic world of the planet’s greatest living animated underwater character.

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One of the problems I had with the first Spongebob Squarepants movie was its over-reliance on the lead character and his gormless chum Patrick (the fat pink starfish) and the reduction of the franchise’s supporting cast, namely Mr Squidward, Sandy and Mr Krabbs, to bit-parts or minor cameos. The television series works best when the regular cast are front-and-center, and the first film seemed hell-bent on avoiding that to make a sweet-but-sour road movie. The second Spongebob movie, subtitled Sponge Out Of Water, reverses this and sticks all your favorites right in the main frame almost entirely, including Krabbs’ arch-nemesis Plankton, who is once more the catalyst for all the animated insanity going on here. Blessedly, Sponge Out Of Water is justifiably better as a film experience, but shortcomings in the franchise overall remain.

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Movie Review – Focus (2015)

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– Summary –

Director :   Glen Ficarra + John Requa
Year Of Release :  2015
Principal Cast :  Will Smith, Margo Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro, Gerald McRaney, BD Wong, Robert Taylor, Dominic Fumusa, Adrian Martinez, Brennan Brown.
Approx Running Time :   104 Minutes
Synopsis:   A successful conman meets an attractive grifter and their lives intersect through the course of their crimes.
What we think :   When it’s… er… focusing on the heist and bait-n-switch stuff, Focus rises to its height. When it spends time on Will Smith’s on-screen romance with Aussie Margot Robbie, things lose steam badly. Middle-of-the-road crime/drama offers mild thrills and a few overheated gotcha moments (I mean, you just know there’s a twist coming), Focus is nice enough but never nasty enough.

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Off the back of her stunning film debut for Martin Scorsese in The Wolf Of Wall Street, it’s little wonder Hollywood sat up and took notice of Aussie export Margo Robbie. Dazzlingly beautiful, with great talent and a magnetic screen chemistry, Robbie has…. or rather, will rise up the ranks of celebrity A-list faster than most wannabe actress beauties around her. Paired with Will Smith in Focus, the film’s gilt-edged star turn potential is found wanting by an undercooked crime subplot that does little for her as an actress, and more for her as a piece of eye-candy. That’s not Robbie’s fault, but Focus is less about her than it should be, and more about Will Smith’s sleight-of-hand mastermind who is always three steps ahead of the curve.

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Movie Review – San Andreas

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– Summary –

Director :  Brad Peyton
Year Of Release :  2015
Principal Cast :  Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexanrda Daddario, Paul Giamatti, Ioan Gruffudd, Archie Panjab, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Art Parkinson, Will Yun Lee, Kylie Minogue, Colton Haynes, Todd Williams, Matt Gerald.
Approx Running Time :   117 Minutes
Synopsis: In the aftermath of a massive earthquake in California, a rescue-chopper pilot makes a dangerous journey across the state in order to rescue his daughter.
What we think :  As unkempt as the story and characters are in this by-the-numbers destruction film, charismatic leading performances by Dwayne Johnson and Alexandra Daddario make this an Event Film that delivers its spectacular visuals with only minor problems in the human beings living through it. It’s fast, silly quake mumbo-jumbo that spends loads of cash on its CG effects, and virtually nothing on characters we truly invest in. In all, a fun but forgettable time at the movies.

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It’s not The Rock’s fault.

It’s doubtful anybody loves a good disaster film as much as I. Armageddon, 2012, The Towering Inferno, Earthquake – all-round popcorn-chewing destructo-porn that normally rocks my world and the genre I return to when life’s kicking me in the balls. Fantasy writ large, the kind of thing blockbuster cinema is designed for (along with superheroes punching on, yes), San Andreas is a film that taps right into the stupid centers of my brain and makes me want to see it. Combine Dwayne Johnson (yeah, I still have issues with that name, because I’d much rather he go by The Rock, because it sounds cooler than “Dwayne”), two of the most attractive women in the industry today, and the destruction of most of the West Coast of America, and I’m in a seat. Buck down, Coke chugging, brain-in-neutral entertainment that tests a cinema subwoofer and thrills the same way a rollercoaster does at a theme park. So what’s the result of this earthquake-centric flick; does it split itself open and fail to capture the imagination? Or does it find its shaking feet firmly in the “silly but fun” region that will keep it on high rotation at my place for years to come?

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Movie Review – Chappie

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– Summary –

Director :  Neill Blomkamp
Year Of Release :  2015
Principal Cast :  Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Sharlto Copely, Ninja, Yolandi Visser, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Brandon Auret.
Approx Running Time :  120 Minutes
Synopsis:   In the near future, crime is patrolled by a mechanized police force. When one police droid, Chappie, is stolen and given new programming, he becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself.
What we think :   Robotic misfire treads a well-worn path disassembling humanity’s inhumanity and dependence on machines to do our dirty work. While Chappie himself ia glorious piece of design and CG execution, he’s surrounded by inane characterization and generic plot points that do little to elevate itself. Plus, much of the acting is awful. So there’s that.

****

Number 5 is alive!

Director Neill Blomkamp’s third film as director struggles to overcome fairly basic sci-fi tropes as it meanders through its “robot with a soul” narrative. While he hit the mark with District 9, and found middling critical success with Elysium (a film I liked but didn’t outright love), Chappie has too many familiar elements within it to separate itself from the pack, so to speak. Chappie’s cinematic DNA seems spliced between Short Circuit (an 80’s kids-flick I loved back in the day) and any number of AI-themed flick that have at its heart a robotic protagonist learning just how shitty humanity really is.

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Movie Review – Batman & Robin

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– Summary –

Director :  Joel Schumacher
Year Of Release :   1997
Principal Cast :  George Clooney, Alicia Silverstone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chris O’Donnell, Uma Thurman, Pat Hingle, Michael Gough, John Glover, Vivica A Fox, Robert Swenson.
Approx Running Time :  126 Minutes
Synopsis:  Batman and Robin, together with newcomer Batgirl, team up to stop Mr Freeze and Poison Ivy from destroying Gotham City.
What we think : Painful, obtuse, inane; Batman & Robin comes with virtually no redeeming features whatsoever. Designed by a madman, written by a six year old with no appreciation for Batman as an IP, and directed with the ferocity of an angry rhino, this film is so dire I wouldn’t recommend it even as a form of torture, that’s how I feel about it. Little wonder Clooney continues to apologize for it. Yep, it’s that bad.

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Holy Dutch Angles, Batman.

You’ve heard the stories, you’ve read the interviews and the apologetic Clooney making his “I’ll pay back everyone who had to sit through it” statement, and you’ve heard whispers about its legendary status as one of the worst films ever made. Let me say this here and now: nothing about this film will prove anything you’ve heard, read or seen wrong. Batman & Robin is an awful, irredeemably bad motion picture, a comedy of horrendous creative decisions and utterly wretched production. Famously, it ditched the Batman franchise into development hell for nearly a decade, until Christopher Nolan reinvigorated things with Batman Begins in 2005. Bankrupt of even marginal wit, devoid of soul and averse to the slightest amount of tact, subtlety or fun, Batman & Robin is everything wrong with big-budget film-making with zero oversight and even less consideration for taste.

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Movie Review – Batman Forever

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– Summary –

Director :  Joel Schumacher
Year Of Release : 1995
Principal Cast :  Val Kilmer, Jim Carrey, Tommy Lee Jones, Nicole Kidman, Pat Hingle, Michael Gough, Drew Barrymore, Debi Mazar, Elizabeth Sanders, Rene Auberjonois, Ed Begley Jr, Don “The Dragon” Wilson.
Approx Running Time :  122 Minutes
Synopsis:   Batman fights against the cruel Two Face, and the sneaky Riddler, whilst romancing a psychologist and rescuing a young teen from a tragic fate.
What we think : While it stumbles through its vapid, half-cooked “hero” storyline, the villains steal the show outright in this blast of visual Bat-porn that eschews subtlety for ballsy, all-out sensory overload. Seal’s famous soundtrack song seals the deal.

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If knowledge is power, then a god. am. I.

Listen to Seal’s “Kiss From A Rose” from the Batman Forever OST in the media player below:

 

A change was in the air at Warner Bros in the aftermath of Tim Burton’s hugely successful Batman Returns, the sequel to 1989’s Batman and one of the highest grossing sequels of that year. Looking to capitalize on Batman’s resurgent popularity, and make a film aimed more at kids than at adults (bad move, in hindsight), the studio hired Joel Schumacher to direct the third film in the ongoing franchise, while Michael Keaton declined to reappear because he didn’t like the direction the series was heading. Boy, was he on the money. Val Kilmer signed on, and Batman Forever is the result. While the film could be seen to follow in Burton’s template, at least as far as giving the villains of the piece more time than the hero, in this screenplay the focus was on comic-booky flair and pizazz rather than realism and darkness.

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Movie Review – Batman Returns

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– Summary –

Director :  Tim Burton
Year Of Release :  1992
Principal Cast :  Michael Keaton, Michelle Pfeiffer, Danny DeVito, Christopher Walken, Michael Murphy, Pat Hingle, Michael Gough, Vincent Schiavelli, Anna Katerina, Paul Ruebens.
Approx Running Time :   126 Minutes
Synopsis:   When Gotham comes under attack from the mysterious Catwoman, and a disfigured freak named Oswald Cobblepot runs for Mayor, Batman must once more enter the fray to stop his city becoming a war zone.
What we think :  Exceptionally dark Batman film is utterly superb from opening frame to close. Teeming with iconic motifs and nods to the comic character’s long history, as well as taking audiences on an utter nightmare of a journey into the duo of villains here, Batman Returns is perhaps the second best Batman movie after 2008’s The Dark Knight. DeVito, especially has yet to be topped as The Penguin.

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Dark, brooding, malevolent. And that’s just Batman.

Batman Returns is the Empire Strikes Back to Batman’s original Star Wars. That’s no small feat – Burton has a spotty history with maintaining his creative drive, and after Batman’s monumental success, naturally Warner Bros threw a boatload of money at him (and Michael Keaton) to make the sequel. Rather than just throw something together quickly, Burton and his production team – screenwriter Daniel Waters and producing partner Denise DiNovi – crafted a story that would make a genuine sequel better than the original. Burton took a couple of Batman’s most famous adversaries, Catwoman and Penguin, and following the template of the original film, gave them origin stories that added a layer of sympathy for audiences to connect with. Like Batman’s Joker, with Catwoman and Penguin Burton wanted us to feel for them, to acknowledge that they were products of their circumstances, not just cartoonish, campy adversaries for Batman to defeat with a punch.

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Movie Review – Batman (1989)

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– Summary –

Director :  Tim Burton
Year Of Release :   1989
Principal Cast :  Michael Keaton, Kim Basinger, Jack Nicholson, Robert Wuhl, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams, Michael Gough, Jack Palance, Jerry Hall, Tracey Walter, Lee Wallace, William Hootkins, Hugo E Blick.
Approx Running Time :   126 Minutes
Synopsis:   When a masked vigilante starts fighting crime in the corrupt Gotham City, a villain named the Joker spreads a wave of anarchy among the populace with his deadly airborne toxins.
What we think :  Dynamite tour-de-force from Tim Burton sees a new Batman take flight, as Gotham City comes to life in a way never before seen on the big (or small) screen. Keaton is solid, Basinger stunning, and Jack Nicholson steals the show from everyone as this 80’s classic delivers a new Batman for a new decade.

******

Who are you?

I’m Batman

At the crest of 1989, the blitzkrieg marketing campaign for Warner Bros revamp of Batman, here helmed by Edward Scissorhands director Tim Burton, was inescapable. The Bat-symbol had become synonymous with camp KAPOW and ZAP from the 60’s television serial starring Adam West, so a concerted effort to distance this film from that was made, to large success. Burton’s Batman revolutionized comic book film-making. Where before had come glib, often campy and highly fantastical films – the Superman franchise, to name one – 1989’s Batman was dark, brooding, and utterly grounded in noir realism. Batman as a character had long been labelled “The Dark Knight”, without much emphasis on “Dark”, and yet here was a film that came with Burton’s penchant for moody atmospherics and Gothic settings, a villain that outshone the hero, and some set-pieces that became iconic throughout pop-culture (and still resonate today). Yes, Burton’s Batman was considered a marvel (pun intended) but how does it stack up today?

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Movie Review – Shaun The Sheep: The Movie

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– Summary –

Director :  Richard Starzak + Mark Burton
Year Of Release :  2015
Principal Cast :  Voices of Justin Fletcher, John Sparkes, Omid Djalili, Kate Harbour, Richard Webber, Tim Hands, Simon Greenhall, Emma Tate, Andy Nyman.
Approx Running Time :  85 Minutes
Synopsis:  Shaun, Bitzer and the rest of Mossy Bottom Farm’s denizens must travel to the city to rescue an amnesiac Farmer from a career in hairdressing.
What we think :  Charming, witty kids flick lacks adult-oriented subtext, but will keep the tiny tots entertained for an hour and a half quite easily. Some great chuckles and Aardman’s typically spot-on animation, together with broad characters and a simple-to-follow plot, this will be a must-see for the young ones during holiday seasons and will amuse the parents of those young ones; although those unfamiliar with Shaun’s world will possibly leave this one scratching their heads at all the fuss. Still, it’s an utter delight.

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He’s Shaun the sheep.

If you’re a parent of young children, you’ll undoubtedly be familiar with Aardman Entertainment’s latest stop-motion offering, the movie version of Shaun The Sheep. You’ll at least be familiar with who Shaun is, from the popular children’s program of the same name worming its way into television programming the world over. For those unfamiliar, allow me to explain. Back in 1995, director Nick Park and his successful Aardman Animation studio released the third of the short films using the Wallace And Gromit characters, called A Close Shave. Within that short film was introduced a young sheep, named Shaun by a blithering Wallace. Following another appearance in 2002, in another of the W&G spin-off series, Shaun gained his own series in 2007, with his eponymously named show running some seven minutes – about the same length as a standard Warner Bros Looney Toon. Thus far, four series of Shaun the Sheep have been produced, and the show has even had a spin-off of its own, the infant-friendly Timmy Time (Timmy is Shaun’s younger cousin, and appears prodigiously in both shows); it’s fair to say that any parent of kids under five have seen, or at least heard of, Shaun The Sheep.

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