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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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019) – The Library Is Open!

Released: 26th September
Seen: 5th October

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was a series of books from 1981 to 1991 written by Alvin Schwartz. There were three books in total, each one filled with almost 30 short stories that terrified an entire generation, not only because the stories themselves were terrifying but the illustrations associated with each story were so infamously scary. They are not only legendary best-sellers but they’re also infamously some of the most banned books in school libraries because of the violence described and the macabre topics like cannibalism (which I just thought was a regular weekend activity, you learn a new thing every day). To shock no one, I didn’t read these books growing up. Firstly, they were big before I was old enough to even be able to say the word “Book” and secondly, I was more of a Goosebumps kid. I did try to hunt down a copy of the books before I went to see the movie but I guess my local library must’ve been one of the ones to ban them and the only copy is the brand new one that is a tie in for this movie and I’m not paying 50 bucks to read some short stories, thankyou very much. This does allow me to answer the question of whether this film works without knowing the source material. The short answer is… kinda?

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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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Rambo: Last Blood (2019) – Last Dud

Released: 19th September
Seen: 2nd October

Rambo is probably the series that will go down as having the worst naming system of them all. It’s almost laughably bad how this franchise is ordered. We have First Blood, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Rambo III, Rambo and now Rambo: Last Blood. In 50 years when historians are trying to order these things, it’s going to be almost goddamn impossible because this series was named stupidly. The films themselves are a mixed bag in terms of quality. I think the first two are the best, certainly the ones that have the most to say about the aftermath of the Vietnam war, but the latter two have their moments of just being plain old fun and over the top. This most recent one… well, I didn’t outright hate it, so let’s start from there.

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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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Use Me (2019) – Take My Money!

Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival

Go see this movie. Find it, see it, thank me when you’re done. Normally I would try and give some elaborate bit of information here that would set things up or maybe even explore how I found the film but here? No, go see this movie wherever it is. Do you have to climb a mountain to see it? Get your Sherpa, start climbing. Do you need to walk on hot coals? Burn your feet, it’s worth it. Do you have to sell your firstborn? You can have another one, kids are cheap now so throw Timmy in the ticket booth and go see this film. I don’t want you to look up details or anything like that, just trust me… or keep reading this and then go see it, but go see this goddamn movie.

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Them That Follow (2019) – Snakes and Stones May Break My Bones

Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival

In 2014 a story circulated about a pastor in Kentucky, the leader of a church called the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name and he was giving his sermon when suddenly he died… oh, his sermon would involve carrying a large poisonous snake around and the reason he died was that the poisonous snake bit him on the hand and injected him with a large amount of venom. This is actually a thing that’s more widespread than you might think, one article I found suggested that over 125 churches use poisonous snakes as part of the service. Several pastors and churchgoers have died from snake bites in these services, to the point where local authorities have had to intervene just to try and keep them from harming the community. Basically, this stuff was almost destined to be used as the foundation for a religious thriller and they got a pretty good one.

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Tone-Deaf (2019) – Make Allegory Great Again

Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival

This year I had the distinct pleasure of going to the Sydney Underground Film Festival, not as press but purely for fun because I genuinely love a film festival that’s dedicated to the weirder side of cinema. This is the stuff that probably would never see a mainstream theatrical release unless we were having a particularly slow period of releases and cinemas got desperate. During this festival I saw 11 films over 3 days and so, between mainstream movie reviews, I’ll be dropping these for a while to share my views on films you might want to track down if you can find them… because dammit, I watched all of them, you’re damn right I’m getting the most that I possibly can out of the experience. Let’s start with the first film I saw at the festival, Tone-Deaf.

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