Shaft (2019) – Daft

Released: 28th June
Seen: 10th August

In 1971 the world learned the answer to the immortal question “Who’s the black private dick that’s a sex machine to all the chicks?” and turns out, that answer would be an icon of blaxploitation cinema and one of the most badass characters to ever appear on film. John Shaft started as a detective novel before his original trilogy of movies (Shaft, Shaft’s Big Score and Shaft in America) and even ended up with a TV series in the early 70’s before the character was retired until the character was revived in 2000 for a brand new Shaft movie that did fairly well but didn’t get any sequels… until now. Now it has a sequel that did poorly at the box office, was distributed internationally on Netflix and is currently the most critically panned movie in the entire franchise. Does it deserve that kind of treatment? Is the film really bad enough to deserve to be relegated to the trash heap of cinema history? Kind of, but only because it’s kind of bland.

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Here Comes The Grump (2019) – I’m Grumpy

Released: 1st August
Seen: 7th August

On September 6th of 1969, the first episode of the new Friz Freleng series aired on NBC, a series called Here Comes the Grump. Running for 17 episodes, the series followed a grumpy little wizard named Grump who wanted to make the entire kingdom sad all the time. The princess of the kingdom and her friend Terry would search for the magical key that would undo everything and, this would form the basis of the episodes that lead to a large number of assorted slapstick gags… I assume, I never even knew this series existed until I began some research to find out just why this movie existed and now I’m in actual romantic love with the cheesy theme tune for this series that I will be binging right after I spend a thousand or so words complaining about a bad adaptation of a TV series that everyone forgot.

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Otherhood (2019) – Eh

Released: 2nd August
Seen:3rd August

It is a truth universally acknowledged that there is no job on earth harder than being a mother. It’s a 24/7 job that starts the second the child is born until the second one of the two people involved in the mother/child dynamic is no longer on the earth. Mothers will do anything for their children, including taking part in an elaborate bribery scandal to get their obscenely well off children into expensive colleges that they don’t deserve to attend. Mothers truly are something special, and they remain mothers even when their children have moved to another town and begun living lives that are completely separate from their parents. Of course, sometimes kids can be jackasses and forget to call their mothers while they’re off living their lives. When that happens there’s only one thing to do… an elaborate comedy about invasion of privacy that ends up going well for everybody!

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Booksmart (2019) – Brilliant

Released: 11th July
Seen: 24th July

20 years ago, the coming of age comedy American Pie hit cinemas. While it wasn’t the first movie to be about a bunch of teenagers deciding to reach some form of major milestone before graduation, it was certainly the one that everyone thinks of when it comes to modern teen sex comedies. Every one since has followed the basic premise of a group of friends who believe that they need to do something big (usually have sex) before they go off to college where everything will be very different. Of course, on the way to accomplishing this big goal, these movies would then have a bunch of wacky adventures. It’s a formula that’s worked in films like Superbad and a myriad of straight to digital films that no one ever saw. The problem with these films is that some of them didn’t age well, and usually all focussed on guys wanting to have sex and turned the female characters into background features. So what if we took the basic story structure of these films, let women be the leads and maintained the comical vulgarity while also being progressive while we do it?

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Stuber (2019) – Stupid… I know, I KNOW

Released: 11th July
Seen: 11th July

Did you know that the only reason that Reece’s Pieces are a thing right now is that they agreed to be a part of the movie E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial? Turns out that the producers of the film actually tried to get M&M’s but the Mars Company said no. I want it noted that by this point in history, Spielberg had made Jaws, Close Encounters and Raiders of the Lost Ark so saying no to him for this kind of deal should’ve probably ended in someone being fired. Anyway, Reece’s said yes, became a part of movie history and saw their sales skyrocket. Now, why am I reciting this well-known piece of history? Because I genuinely want to know exactly who the hell signed off on the use of Uber in this movie because I’m fairly confident that person used to work for the Mars company and was desperately trying to make amends and bet that a movie from the director of Fubar would be just as good as a movie by the director of Raiders. I want to meet this person, I’m sure they regret many decisions.

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Yesterday (2019) – All My Troubles Seemed So Far Away

Released: 27th June
Seen: 8th July

The first Beatles song that I remember hearing was Octopus’s Garden. I remember it being performed in my grade school class with big pieces of cardboard cut out into various sea animals and painted with fluorescent paint that a bunch of small children would wave around randomly while singing a cover version of the fifth track from Abbey Road. I’m not sure if we were on key, but we were precious children and so everyone claimed to like it because you’d have to be some kind of monster to tell a bunch of kids that they didn’t do a good job of paying respect to one of the greatest bands of all time. I hope we can all agree that telling a bunch of children that they’re bad at doing a Beatles tribute act would be mean… however, if you want to tell a bunch of grown adults making a million dollar film that their Beatles tribute act is bad then that’s OK. I mean, I plan on spending the next few paragraphs saying exactly that, so it’d be a bit silly if I thought it was mean.

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Toy Story 4 (2019) – Gave Me A Buzz

Released: 20th June
Seen: 20th June

The world of animation in 1995 was a very different place. Hand drawn animation ruled the land, the Disney Renaissance was in full swing and the only CGI you ever saw was used to enhance 2D work. This was mostly because CGI was still early in its development and no one really knew what to do with this toy. Sure there were little short films popping up, but no one really tried to make a feature-length film with this brand new tool until a little company called Pixar told the story of a pull-string cowboy who had to deal with an astronaut coming into his space and propelling him on an adventure. Toy Story set a standard that every CGI animated film would have to try to compete with for years to come, it became the highest grossing film of 95 and spawned two sequels. The second film would be the third highest grossing of 1999 and then in 2010 the third film would come out and be top of the box office. Every film in the franchise has received overwhelming critical acclaim, part three even taking home the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Of every franchise that Pixar has done, this is the one they’ve gotten right every time and the ending of part three felt like a nice end to the series. The toys were given to a girl named Bonnie in a sequence that was designed to make everyone watching cry like a baby and we were sure that we’d only see Woody and Buzz in the occasional cameo or TV special… and then the company realised that they really liked money so they went and made the fourth film because they wanted to make more money. Luckily, they actually put in the hard work to make sure that they would actually deserve the money they were going to be earning.

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Men in Black: International (2019) – Men In Blech

Released: 13th June
Seen: 18th June

In 1997, the earth was saved by the legendary Men in Black. It was a film that blew audiences and critics away with its elaborate effects, clever script and terrific leads. It destroyed the box office that year, only being beaten at the box office by the juggernaut that was Titanic and to this day there probably hasn’t been an alien comedy that could compete with it, not even its own sequels which just did worse and worse at the box office. The last one, Men in Black 3, was released 7 years ago to just above average critical praise and didn’t even make its budget back domestically so you would think that might be the sign to retire the black suits and move on… I mean, you might think that but then you remember that Hollywood is a sadistic bastard that enjoys flaying horses years after they’ve stopped neighing and so now we have Men In Black: International or as it probably should be known “Men In Black: Look, we hired the people from Thor: Ragnarok so that means we’re just as funny as Thor Ragnarok, right?” but I’m guessing that probably wouldn’t have fit on the poster.

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The Dead Don’t Die (2019) – Zombie Or Not Zombie

Released: 24th October (General Release)
Seen: 17th June (Sydney Film Festival)

It’s been said before, I shall say it again, there is no element of pop culture that has been used more often than the Zombie. Maybe Jesus has been used more often, but not by much. Everything nowadays has a zombie element to it. One of the most popular TV series right now is a Zombie show, every 4th game released has a zombie mode in it, you can buy zombie-shaped slippers for crying out loud. Zombies are everywhere nowadays and they’ve been done in so many ways that a truly original take on them is almost impossible to find. The last real original Zombie movie I saw was one called Anna and the Apocalypse; I never got around to reviewing that film but it was a Christmas Zombie Musical Comedy set in England and it’s every bit as glorious as that combination sounds. I bring that film up because it’s a great example of what happens when you have several film ideas (a Christmas film, a zombie film and a high school musical comedy) and make them work together. The Dead Don’t Die however is what happens when you have several film ideas, smash them together violently, hold them together with Scotch tape and present it as a complete work. Weirdly, it kind of works… kind of.

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The Secret Life Of Pets 2 (2019) – Woof

Released: 20th June (Advance Screening)
Seen: 8th June

The animation company Illumination has something of an interesting reputation when it comes to critical acclaim. Their Despicable Me series, for example, was a breath of fresh air that everyone seemed to love… until they unleashed Minions on the world and people began contemplating an open revolt against the company. Their film Sing also scored a lot of praise, but then they would unleash a couple of Dr Seuss adaptations that were pretty abysmal (one of them so bad that it made me go through a period of uncontrollable rhyming). They’re very hit and miss so going into The Secret Life of Pets 2, I had some trepidation While I hadn’t seen the original I have heard enough about it to know that it was a hit and if we follow Illuminations pattern, this one had a good chance of being a miss… but turns out, it was closer to a light tap of the bat. Still technically a hit, but nothing to write home about.

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