So, I know right now we’re all a little frazzled thanks to the mild apocalypse we’ve got going on. The people who are probably most in need of a respite from the insanity are the parents of young kids who are just running about without anything to watch since they’ve probably sat through Trolls: World Tour and Onward about 17 times each. Well, let me offer something that might delight them… and might make them work out ways to murder their parents, but they will be quiet for an hour and a half so you can decide if that trade-off is worthwhile.
I know that I’ve been a little harsh on some lower budget features and I swear it’s not intentional. Lower budget features and first-time films tend to come with some serious drawbacks in terms of just what is actually available for the filmmakers to use. Your first film isn’t going to be some grand epic where you have access to the world’s best lighting and sound equipment or an editing bay with high tech CGI to correct issues you didn’t spot on the day. Let’s be honest, your first film will probably be made with mates, shot on a weekend and edited using a pirated copy of Premiere that you’ve had since you downloaded CS2 back in the early 2000s. Sometimes your first film will not look that good and the sad truth is that it’s a little hard to look past sometimes. I promise you, my problems with these films are never about the things that can be explained away by budget because we’ve all been there. Any film student who had to put together a 5 minute short film on a budget of nothing knows how it feels to try and make that work, I’m judging these films based on things that are fixable at any budget level… which brings me to today’s offering, The Black Gate.
Released: 26th March Seen: 21st March (Advance Screening Weekend)
Onward might go down as one of the unluckiest movies in recent Disney history since its release just happened to fall when the coronavirus pandemic basically shut down everything, including most theatres. Normally a Pixar film is basically guaranteed to make 100 million in the first week, get its budget covered in the second week and be on the way to one of the highest grossing films of the year. That’s now not happening, thanks to corona. If you want to be in genuine shock at just how suddenly this hit, go look at the box office of Onward. Onward is still technically the top grossing film in America and yet it’s barely cracking a thousand bucks a theatre. I bring this up because it explains why they made a pivot and released this one straight to VOD in the states and why it’ll be on Disney+ soon. So now the question becomes “Is this film worth a slightly higher than normal rental price to stream at home” and honestly? Yeah, because it’s a pretty great film.
So there seems to be this weird new trend going on at my local cinema and I don’t like it at all. For some reason over the last year, every few months an animated film is put on a big screen that clearly was meant to go direct to DVD. I’ve now seen so many awful animated films in a cinema that I thought I was numb to them. We’re not talking your generally bad animated films either, nothing that’s just bland or boring. No, we’re talking crap like Arctic Justice, Cats (not that one), Here Comes The Grump and Flying the Nest. Films that look like they were made in a month for the express purpose of being sold in bulk to video retailers to help them have filler on their shelves. These movies are not meant to turn up in actual cinemas, they’re not built to be presented there… but they keep on coming, and today we have the first animated abortion of 2020 and oh my god, I hope this is the worst one of this year because I can’t handle any more of this.
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries was an Australian drama series based on the novels by author Kerry Greenwood. It ran for 3 years, airing 32 episodes on the ABC and getting a spin-off, Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries, in 2019. The show itself was a decent hit by Australian standards and got average reviews throughout its run. The series fans did what a lot of fans do when a series they love ends, begged for them to go again one more time and thus we have been blessed with Miss Fisher & the Crypt of Tears, a film that knows it needs to be more impressive than the TV series was but somehow fails to find its footing.
When it comes to movies featuring animals, you could say that I haven’t exactly had the best luck. In fact you could say that any time I see a dog on the poster of a film I break out in a rash and start rocking in place because I’m fairly confident that whatever I’m about to see is going to either bore, infuriate or confuse me. There was the eternally hated A Dog’s Purpose, a film I will never stop complaining about because it’s bad and deserves nothing but ridicule, along with its sequel A Dog’s Journey. There was the spinoff to those two movies that was so boring that I can’t be bothered to type the title even though typing the title would take up less space than this comedic riff about how I won’t type the title, Show Dogs literally had a scene that resembled child grooming pulled out while it was in cinemas, Dolittle was a trash fire of epic proportions. The only film of the last few years that prominently featured a member of the canine family that didn’t want to make me start setting fires was Pick of the Litter, that adorable documentary about how they train guide dogs. It’s now become a rule around here, if a film is fictional and heavily features a CGI dog then it’s going to be awful… and just as soon as I make that rule, something comes along to prove it wrong because that’s how my life works.
There seem to be two main ways to adapt a TV series to film, as far as I can tell. The first is the straight forward continuation of the TV series into the new format, telling a story that’s just too big for the small screen. This kind of adaptation gave us El Camino, The Simpsons Movie and Charlie’s Angels, films that told stories in a similar vein to the series. Then there’s the riskier gamble, one that takes the series and comments on it by pushing it into a new genre, usually comedy. This lets us witness 21 Jump Street, Baywatch and the eternally baffling CHiPS movies in recent years. When you do this right, you can get gold… when you do it wrong you get Fantasy Island.
Remember this? Remember when this image was originally seared into the brains of people around the world? Remember the nightmares? The shakes? Do you remember the fear that at any moment this small blue demon from the depths of hell could emerge from the shadows in the corner of your room and the last thing you’d hear before you were forced to look at your own intestines was a tiny innocent-sounding “Meow”? Well, I remember, I remember it well. I still can’t listen to Gangsta’s Paradise unless I’m wearing brown pants.
The 2016 Suicide Squad movie is the definition of a mixed bag. It’s currently the 4th highest-earning film in the DCEU (or whatever the hell we’re calling the batch of DC films since Man of Steel) making almost $750million worldwide which is pretty impressive… it also has a 27% on Rotten Tomatoes right now and is getting a ‘sequel’ next year that will only be bringing back 4 of the actors and has the title THE Suicide Squad which, to me, sounds like they’re masking a reboot under the cover of a sequel. One of the few things that everyone could agree on about the original Suicide Squad movie was that Margot Robbie is an absolutely amazing Harley Quinn and should probably have her own movie. The catch is, Harley Quinn is just a little too insane to be trusted to finish a story on her own and maybe she should have a little bit of backup.
Over the last year of this blog, I’ve done my best to see everything, in part so that when the time comes to do Oscar Predictions I’ll be able to say that I saw all the major films nominated. This was my intention from the start since I started reviewing specifically because I had somehow missed all the best picture nominees when La La Land won in 2017 (I turned it off after then, I’m sure they made a great acceptance speech). So now we’re a little over a week away and it turns out I missed a few films so I’m going to do my best to catch up on what I’m able to, starting with the animation nominees who I missed… and I now wish I had seen this one on its release so I could’ve started a Christmas tradition because it feels like the kind of movie that will be watched every single year by many people.