Hustlers (2019) – The Hustle Is Deep

Released: 10th October
Seen: 11th October

You’d think that there’d be a lot more films about exotic dancers. After all, it’s a job that can contain the three things that people love more than anything. Sex, drugs, and dancing to remixes of Britney Spears songs. Still, it feels like there aren’t that many major hit films about exotic dancers. There’s the infamous Showgirls, maybe some people remember the 1996 film Striptease and there are, of course, the two recent Magic Mike movies (the second one is better, I will not be accepting arguments on this), I know of Zombie Strippers and Full Monty but that’s about all I could name off the top of my head. There are others but not many that are giant mainstream hits and certainly none that would really get any kind of buzz as being more than just a fun movie to enjoy on a night out with friends… well, then Hustlers came along and said “Fine, I guess we’ll have to give you everything you ever wanted” and just ran away with every bit of my heart.

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Ad Astra (2019) – Pitt In Spaaace

Released: 19th September
Seen: 9th October

A space movie is always hard to get just right. The idea of someone floating around in the vastness of space? It’s a cool effect that’s hard to recreate on earth, and that’s before you worry about things like sound in the vacuum of space or just how potentially dangerous it is. The hardest part about big space movies is trying to find a good story using the location. When the location is the vast emptiness of space, that can really work well as a metaphor or just to create some danger. Gravity, as an example, is basically a film about someone lost at sea and could’ve told the exact same story on earth but they wanted to make it a space movie because it’s more visually interesting. That movie was also praised as the most realistic space movie of all time – and now a new contender has come to try and claim that crown. I don’t think it’s the most realistic ever, but it’s certainly got some of the best performances.

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In the Tall Grass (2019) – Hey You Kids, Get Out Of My Lawn!

Released: 4th October
Seen: 5th October

Stephen King is a master of taking things that aren’t normally scary and making them terrifying. Puppies, classic cars, a cell phone, he’s taken them and twisted them into the stuff of nightmares. In 2012, Stephen collaborated with his son Joe Hill for a short story called In the Tall Grass, because now Stephen wants us to be scared of lawns. One of these days he’s going to make a film about a killer lamp and then someone will make a movie about it and I’ll end up enjoying that almost as much as I enjoyed this film.

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Joker (2019) – I Started A Joke

Released: 3rd October
Seen: 3rd October

There’s an old Looney Tunes episode called Show Biz Bugs where Daffy and Bugs are going head to head on a stage doing various acts and Daffy finally has enough and pulls out “The act I’ve been saving for a special occasion”. The act consists of Daffy wearing a devils outfit and walking on stage and drinking a bottle of nitro-glycerine, then a goodly amount of gunpowder and some uranium-238. He then shakes it all up inside him, throws a lit match down his throat and explodes. The crowd goes wild and Bugs yells “Daffy, that’s terrific. They want more!” and Daffy’s ghost says “I know, but I can only do it once”. That’s kind of how I feel about this movie, it’s a fantastic trick to pull off but they can only do it once.

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The Lodge (2019) – Checking Out

Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival

Some horror films are fast-paced thrill rides that don’t go more than 10 minutes without doing something to make the audience jump in their seats. Some horror films are slower, building tension gradually for a few hours until it explodes with a dramatic climax that is made exponentially scarier thanks to the hour of buildup. Then there are horror films that try to be slow, occasionally throw in a scare to remind the audience that there’s a film going and builds to a climax that answers nothing, justifies no one and makes the people watching sit with their jaws hanging open whispering “What the hell did I just sit through?”. This is that third kind of film.

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Hate Crime (2019) – Let’s Talk About Heavy Topics… That’s Always Fun

Released: 24th September
Seen: 8th September (Advance copy provided by TriCoast)

In 2009, America extended its hate crime laws to include crimes motivated by the victim’s gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. This extension was called the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, named for two victims of notable hate crimes of the 90s that lead to a decade long conversation surrounding hate crimes. This was a conversation that I kind of hoped we wouldn’t need to have anymore, but since there’s been a spike in hate crimes in America since 2017 (I wonder what major event happened that might have led to that?) we apparently need to continue the discussion. The movie Hate Crime wants to tackle a very specific portion of this discussion, one that I’m honestly stunned hasn’t been talked about in more films… just what effect does the aftermath of a hate crime have on the families left behind?

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To Wong Foo Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar (1995) – Wig Snatched

Nowadays, we are living in one of the high points of drag entering the mainstream. Through sheer force of will, a little show called RuPaul’s Drag Race has slowly grown to the point where we are just months away from entering a period where we will have roughly 5 different variations of the Drag Race formula over a 12 month timeframe, along with more cult shows like Dragula being social media darlings. In movies, however, drag queens don’t tend to be a big feature. Sure, in the last few years they appeared in A Star Is Born and the indie circuit popped out a few surprises but in terms of mainstream films embracing drag queens as a major element of the narrative, we haven’t had that since the last 90s when a trilogy of films presented Drag Queens in all their glory. There was the iconic comedy of The Birdcage (with… oh god, the Genie and Timon, gosh darn I can’t remember their real names), before that, there was the Australian classic The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and before both of them, there was the underrated gem with the glorious name of To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar.

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What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) – Baby Jane Aged Well

It could be argued that there was no greater Hollywood feud than the one between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. It’s a hatred that’s so well known that it formed the basis for a hit television series by Ryan Murphy, “Feud: Bette and Joan“. I’m going to link to a timeline of their feud, which started in 1933 and involve marriages, divorces, stolen roles, Oscar scandal and so many of Bette Davis’ most venomous barbs that it’s genuinely stunning that the two of them were able to put their genuine hatred for each other aside long enough to complete a single take in their 1962 classic What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?. But they did, they managed to take their animosity and turn it into one of the biggest films of the year, 14th highest-grossing at the box office and it’s now considered one of the camp cult classics that live on almost as a joke… I don’t get how because the movie is intense as hell, but then again camp is a strange thing.

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A Dog’s Journey (2019) – Dog Gone

Released: 15th August
Seen: 24th August

Today I officially pass a milestone, one I’m genuinely proud of. This is my 100th review for 2019, specifically my 100th review of a current film that’s in cinemas right now. If we include recent throwback reviews, editorials and the Drag Race stuff, the number would be higher but doing 100 written reviews of films from this year feels pretty big, pretty special. It’s the kind of thing that one celebrates by adjusting their schedule and making sure the 100th film is in some way relevant to this blog and my history as a reviewer. Luckily for me, such a film came out. In the first year of this blog I produced a list of the worst films of 2017 and at the very top of that list was a little film called A Dog’s Purpose. I will contend that this film is one of the worst I’ve ever seen and I legitimately loathe everything about it. I also hate its spinoff that came out recently and now we’re at the official sequel, A Dog’s Journey and I am gleeful to inform you that I don’t hate it… hate implies feelings, and this film doesn’t deserve that kind of reaction.

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Midsommar (2019) – Sommar In The City

Released: 14th August
Seen: 22nd August

In 2018, Ari Aster burst onto the scene with his critical darling Hereditary. It’s possibly one of the most tension-filled films in recent memory with a performance by its lead that can best be described as “Should’ve gotten an Oscar nomination and would’ve if the Academy had anything resembling a functioning brain”. It was a delightfully terrifying film that I ended up giving a three out of five because the ending really threw me. With over a year to think about that, while the ending really did spoil the tension for me I have to admit it deserved at least a four from me so keep that in mind as I’m going to be pitting Midsommar against Hereditary, because Ari Aster is such a unique filmmaker that his current work can only be properly compared to his other work.

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