The Two Popes (2019) – Two Popes Are Holier Than One

Released: 27th November 2019
Seen: 3rd February

In 2017, Anthony McCarten wrote The Pope as a stage play. Sadly I don’t know who was in it originally (and god damn it’s impossible to find out any details of that 2017 production even though I know it existed!) but it was apparently clear to everyone from the jump that this little biographic play about the old pope and the new pope having a lengthy conversation was destined to become a movie. It was also pretty obvious to everyone that Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce were the guys who should take the lead. In Netflix’s bid to try and get an Oscar for Best Picture, they bought the rights and produced the movie version, probably figuring that the last three things Anthony McCarten wrote (Theory of Everything, Darkest Hour and Bohemian Rhapsody) all ended up with Best Picture nods so if they had him adapt his own stage play then it might happen again… it didn’t, cos this isn’t a best picture nominee, but the film is still pretty damn good.

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A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood (2020) – Kind And Awesome

Released: 23rd January
Seen: 29th January

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood never made the journey down to the shores of Australia. As far as I am personally aware, as much as I can tell from my research, none of the 912 episodes of the PBS program ever aired on any of the networks that were broadcasting in Australia at any point during its incredibly long run. This period of time when Mister Rogers was inviting the children of America to visit him in his neighborhood started long before my life began, and ended in the 2000’s without me ever once being able to sit down and see the legendarily kind man walk into his home and change from a work jacket and work shoes into a red jumper and pair of comfortable sneakers.

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True History of the Kelly Gang (2020) – Liiiiieeeesss

Released: 26th January
Seen: 26th January

True History of the Kelly Gang is a lie. It’s a work of fiction based upon the novel of the same name written by Peter Carey. The original novel pretends to be a journal written by the real Ned Kelly but is a highly fictionalised version of the story. Claiming to be told by Kelly to his daughter, the book spins a yarn about one of Australia’s most infamous historical figures. Adapting it to a movie is certainly not something to be taken lightly, a story about a real figure that is full of lies meant to try and reveal a greater truth about the man is not easy to translate to film. Clearly, it’s not easy at all because the film doesn’t work as well as I wanted it to.

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Bombshell (2020) – Explosive

Released: 16th January
Seen: 23rd January

If I had to put a label on it, I’m what you might call a leftist, I believe in a lot of left-wing causes, particularly in regards to things like LGBTQIA+ rights and the rights of other minority groups and like all good left-wingers I hate Fox News. I hate them, I hate everything about them. I really hate Rupert Murdoch and have since before he scarpered off to become a US citizen and help to change the news landscape forever by taking what he had already done with the Australian and British news media and turned it up to 11. Why am I opening with this? Simple, I need you to know my biases before we go on. I need you to be aware of where my head was when I walked into this movie. I always do my best to walk in with an open mind on just about everything I review but there are times when I know there’s a bias that will in some way alter my judgement. Being impartial in regards to a film is a pipe dream anyway, there is no such thing as an impartial review. If you want a review that doesn’t in some way reflect the politics and beliefs of the author… well, you don’t actually want a review, what you want is a plot synopsis written by the studio itself. This film is a political film that deals with a political company and a political issue, therefore the viewers politics will shape on some level how you view the film and it would be a fools errand to pretend otherwise. Please note that this does not mean I want to be involved in a political debate, not only because I’m exhausted with those (It’s 2020, aren’t we all exhausted?) but because even if you somehow changed my mind right now that would not impact my mindset walking into this film which is why I’m bringing it up at all. I’d rather just get all that out in the open now so you can consider it when you read what follows and how much of it you feel would be relevant to you. Oh, one more tiny bit of bias… I’m sincerely happy that Roger Ailes is dead and by the time you finish watching this movie, you’ll probably feel the same way I do.

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The Irishman (2019) – The Luck Of The Irish

Released: 27th November
Seen: 1st December

So… the discussion around Marin Scorsese lately has been kind of interesting. I’ve avoided bringing up his feelings regarding the Marvel movies on this blog because it never seemed relevant but now I’m going to have to talk about the movie that he was promoting while making those comments so let’s get that out of the way. While I think Martin was wrong, he’s also one of the greatest directors of all time and can, therefore, say any goddamn thing he wants to say about cinema. Plus, he’s still turning out high quality films so as long as he keeps proving why he’s one of the best of all time, I’m good with just about anything he wants to say… even if I strenuously disagree with him and think that his latest film has a few problems, it’s still great and worthy of letting the man say any damn thing he likes.

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Ford v Ferrari (2019) – Zoom zoom

Released: 14th November
Seen: 14th November

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.

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Judy (2019) – Over The Rainbow

Released: 10th October
Seen: 8th November

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.

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Dolemite Is My Name (2019) – Brilliant

Released: 25th October
Seen: 26th October

The 1970s was the era of the blaxploitation film. If you look up a list of blaxploitation movies they will list every year of the 70s with milestone movies like Shaft, Sweet Sweetback’s Badass Song and Coffy. While these movies often featured racial stereotypes that might be termed problematic today, they’re also a subgenre of film that features an entirely black cast and often featured black directors and writers trying to make films for black audiences of the day. It was also a genre that made worldwide stars out of people like Pam Grier, Richard Roundtree and the subject of the newest Netflix biopic Rudy Ray White.

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Tolkien (2019) – Everybody’s Tolkien At Me

Released: 13th June (Advance Screening)
Seen:7th June

To say that the 1937 book The Hobbit was a game changer would be an understatement. When it comes to the fantasy genre, one could say that The Hobbit and its follow up novels are the reason the fantasy genre still continues to have a life. It’s a work that inspired countless authors and, of course, eventually, lead to three of the most beloved movies of the last 20 years with the iconic Lord of the Rings trilogy. They also made movies based on The Hobbit but we don’t talk about those. Those films were huge though, truly massive moments that are landmarks of cinema and when they ran out of Hobbit movies, someone had to find something to fill the void and since the rights for the stories are with Amazon for that upcoming prequel series, the only way to fill the void would be to do a story about the author himself. You can almost hear the executive squealing with delight when they came up with that idea, even more joyful when they realised that Tolkien was in the First World War so they could do a huge battle scene. Basically, this was a way to get another Lord of the Rings movie out on a smaller budget and it would’ve worked so wonderfully… if, ya know, it was engaging.

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Rocketman (2019) – Hello Yellow Brick Road

Released: 30th May
Seen: 25th May (Advance Screening)

Last year I reviewed a little indie film called Bohemian Rhapsody, you might have heard of it. At the end of that review, I gave the film a 3 and a half rating, a good score for a good film but the more I’ve ruminated on it, the more I realise how the film just isn’t that good. If I were to review it today it’d probably get a 2 and a half star rating. That’s kind of the fun thing about reviewing, as you watch more films you build up a bigger library of references and can spot flaws easier. So when I saw the trailer for Rocketman, I was ready to be a lot more critical about the film. I was ready to not be won over by whimsy but to actually do this properly, and when I found out that the director of Rocketman was the same man who was brought in to replace Bryan Singer on Bohemian Rhapsody after everyone finally realised that Bryan Singer is a bit of an asshole (to put it lightly) I was excited. This is it, a do-over, a chance to try again and make sure that this time I spot a gaudy mess for what it is… and then they just had to screw up my plans by actually producing a fun enchanting film that put the biggest smile on my face. I swear, it’s almost unfair.

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