Released: 29th May (2018) Seen: 21st November (Lift Off Film Festival)
Sometimes you can tell
everything about a movie just by a basic description of its genre and the
descriptive term “Your average”. For example, if I said to you that The
Prowler was your average 80s Slasher then you would have a good idea
of what to expect from that movie. You automatically picture certain visual
style, acting choices and even setting and as long as the movie hits those
notes it’s fine. It might not be great but it’s fine. Well, The Last
Witness is your average post-WW2 movie set in Britain. It delivers
what you expect, but that’s about it.
Released: 5th December Seen: 23rd November (Advance Screening)
In 1938 Charles Addams created a cartoon about a strange family for the New Yorker. It was a satirical take on the modern family that ran for 150 single-panel cartoons and gained a following. Enough of a following that in 1964 a TV series was greenlit and that series, though it only lasted for two seasons, would be responsible for giving every member of this family their names and set the tone that people would come to expect from these characters. The series would continue to be adapted into many forms from cartoons to new live-action series to the two 90s Addams Family movies everyone loves (Don’t deny it) and even a stage musical. Now it’s a big bold animated movie, another in the recent trend of “Franchises that refuse to die” and like a lot of films in that trend, you don’t need to see this one.
Released: 28th November Seen: 23rd November (Advance Screening)
One of my favourite films of all time is the immortal Clue, the camp murder mystery based on the board game of the same name… in the states, in Australia it was named Cluedo for reasons I don’t understand. Everything about it makes me so happy from its quotable dialogue to the crazy camp characters to the luscious set that just begs you to enjoy every element of it. The film is a cult classic but it contains one massive flaw… no way in hell could you actually solve that thing. It has three different endings and all of them rely on information the audience never gets until the moment Wadsworth starts running around and telling everyone who did it. For years I was waiting for a movie to come around with great dialogue, crazy fun characters and a murder mystery that actually feels solvable as the plot comes out… and Rian Johnson clearly heard my plea because he made that exact film and I love it so much.
Every now and then there’ll be an indie filmmaker who’ll send me a link to their film. It’s happened a few times so far, things like Hate Crime or Violence Voyager were little indie companies trying to spread the word about their film and I’m always happy to talk about them. Indie films do tend to get treated differently because we understand that these are films made usually by first time directors who are honing their craft and working on their skills. Allowances need to be made for a difference in budget and availability of resources so keep that in mind while we look at a new anthology film called Morbid Stories. Being an anthology film, the only real way to talk about it is by talking about each short film that makes up the anthology itself, because each one was made by a different crew and director with different visions and it’s unfair to paint them all with the same brush when they’re really different in quality and tone. I want you to remember one key thing… I was sent this, I wouldn’t have reviewed it if I wasn’t asked to.
In 1976 the world was introduced to three female private detectives who worked for a mysterious man who they would never actually meet. That man was Charlie and they were his angels, the show Charlie’s Angels would become an instant smash hit, spending the first two seasons in the top 10 most-watched shows of the year and it became iconic almost instantly. 20 million viewers tuned in to watch a trio of strong women kick ass, it was a monster hit that even achieved the rare feat of creating an influential hairstyle trend. It lasted for 5 years and there were multiple attempts to revive the brand, eventually culminating in a pair of films in the early 2000s that did amazing business but badly with critics. Well, time for them to revive the brand again because we are never permitted to allow a brand to die even when no one wants it anymore (and judging by the box office… oh damn this brand should’ve died long ago)
In the early 1960s the Ford motor company was having a bit of a hard time. Sure they were financially successful, but Ferrari was still considered the better car even though Ferrari at the time was hemorrhaging money. After the head of Ford, Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) was rejected and humiliated in his attempt to purchase a stake in Ferrari he decided on a new plan… humiliating Ferrari by beating them at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race which Ferrari had won for several years running. In order to accomplish this, Ford hires Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), the only American who hadwon the Le Mans race but retired due to a heart condition. Since that heart condition means Shelby couldn’t handle the race, he hires his old friend Ken Miles (Christian Bale) to handle the driving. Catch is, Ken’s a bit of a hothead who doesn’t play well with others, especially the bosses at Ford who are almost pointedly trying to abuse and screw over the little guys working for them.
On May 30th 2017, a photo was uploaded on the internet that would change Kathy Griffin’s life forever. The photo was of Kathy in a blue dress holding a mask with piss-yellow hair covered in ketchup, clearly a reference to a certain president whose name I won’t mention because it’s my review and I get to do stuff like that. The photo was immediately condemned on all sides and Kathy went through the standard cancellation procedure where she lost all her current gigs and had to do the apology tour we send comics on when they make a bad joke. None of this was asked of photographer, Tyler Shields, who not only never apologised, but who continues to work to this day (not saying he should’ve gone through it too, just pointing out that he seems to be doing fine while Kathy’s the one dealing with everything). Anyway, for Kathy this went far beyond your standard “Cancel culture” reaction, this was a steroid induced destruction of a life and career because of one photo. I want to state up front that I did not like the photo in question, I thought it went too far and wasn’t funny… I’m also aware that it was a joke referencing a comment the person depicted in it said and that, at least at the time, Kathy was apologetic for it. What followed was a reaction that even literal rapists don’t have to go through, and this year Kathy finally said “ENOUGH” and let the world know what happened in one of the best and most heart stopping concert films I’ve ever seen.
Zombieland 2: Double Tap is a film that exists for reasons I don’t quite understand. At least, I don’t understand why it exists right now. In 2009 when the original Zombieland came out in cinemas it was still a good time for Zombie-related media, the hit series The Walking Dead was still a year away so having a comedy film about a bunch of people surviving in a zombie wasteland felt fresh and new. The style choices and tone all felt like something we hadn’t seen before and it was one of the funniest films of the time and still holds up today. It’s not like they didn’t try to get a sequel out right away, but everything languished in development hell so long that now we’re so far past the prime time for Zombie movies that Disney felt like they could do one. So how do you make a comedic take on a topic that’s already been wrung dry? Well… you just do the same stuff you did the last time only with a tiny upgrade in the technology and the zombies.
It’s probably fair to say that one of the most tragic figures in Hollywood history is Judy Garland. Performing since she was 2 years old, Judy went through the wringer despite having the kind of talent that should’ve made life easy for her. With her gifted comedic chops and a voice that no one else could even come close to, Judy had the kind of pure star quality that defied description… she was also turned into a drug addict by a mother who gave her uppers to perform and downers to go to sleep before she was ten. The head of the studio she did most of her early work at (Louis B Mayer, may he rot in hell) would have her living on chicken soup and regularly insulting her looks, calling her “my little hunchback” and putting her on amphetamine pills to help her lose weight (which was sadly common at the time). Go through any biography of Judy and you see the story of a woman who had more talent than anyone else that was repeatedly dragged down by a system that was willing to put her health at serious risk to squeeze every dollar out before discarding her. Her story is also one of resilience, of a woman who kept being knocked down and then got up again because you were never going to keep her down. Her last big moment was a British concert called Talk of the Town, the last thing she did before her early death in 1969. This biopic focuses on that brief period right at the end and that focus helps it, and it’s lead actress, considerably.
When we look through history for the point when certain eras ended, we tend to look for major events that were turning points. It can be argued that the 60s, the era of free love, ended on August 9th 1969 when actress Sharon Tate and four of her friends were brutally murdered by the Manson Family (who I shall henceforth refer to as as “that pack of murdering assholes” because I’m the one typing this and I get to be as petty as I want!). The vile crime was historic in how shocking it was and the man who inspired it (now dead, YAY) was instantly recognized as the face of true evil. It’s a tragedy that people keep revisiting in film, to varied results. It’s usually incredibly tasteless, focusing on that pack of murdering assholes and they never have good acting. The one time I can think of when someone did something good with the entire horrific affair was earlier this year when Once Upon A Time In Hollywood did a “What If?” story where Sharon never even had to know who that pack of murdering assholes was… so, naturally, in the same year we get the best possible version of a retelling of the Sharon Tate murders we also have to get the absolute worst version because we live in a hellscape and everything is awful.