Babyteeth (2019)

mv5bodk0yjcxmwytmwy3nc00otk4lwfmmmmtnmjin2nhnmjmymnmxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynti4ndm2mzc40._v1_sy999_cr00704999_al_

Life and love are powerful notions, and in this Australian drama the pair are intertwined with crushing and up-lifting excellence. This, a first time feature for both director and star, is an impressive debut and sparkles with confidence and care.

Milla (Eliza Scanlen) is a teenager with a life-threatening illness who is all but floating through life unawares, until a chance encounter with 23 year old drug dealer Moses (Toby Wallace). Milla’s parents might not approve at first but their wild connection gives their daughter a new lease on existence.

Shannon Murphy steps away from short films to create this debut feature and it’s one with a clear and focused voice; one that ensures the tropes of small town indie movie aren’t as cliched as can often be. The story from the playwright herself Rita Kalnejais is one that assuredly knows how to blend the styles of tickling humour with soul-wrecking emotion and as a pair of female creators they present the scary truths of mortality with a rawness and beauty.

The film is divided into mini chapters, each one signified by multi coloured inter-titles which keeps it close to the structure of the play’s roots. Every character within the bookmarked narrative harbours their own inner demons, ones that are maddening, slightly normal through the trials of life but with all this, they all know however strange Milla’s new fling might be; her eyes opening with newfound appreciation and excitement is not something they wish to prevent.

‘Babyteeth’ is definitely a topsy romantic relationship and the age gap is a weird one to totally buy into, but thankfully the comedy and dramatics mesh nicely and by the end, with a gently lapping tide to leave you in silent thought, you cannot help but realise through misty eyes that the film did most of its job.

The film isn’t always strong, there are points when it mellows too much or just happens to stray very close to becoming the generic indie flick with coming-of-age antics. In certain scenes, it can feel that fatigue might rest over you because moments outstay their welcome but down to the marvellous cast, you do keep engaged enough with a story of two unique souls careering into one another.

Toby Wallace embodies the care-free, tattooed drifter well, he sees something in Milla and even if at first, his appearance seems selfish there’s a nice wonder he finds in her, everyone else pities her or sees her as different but because Moses is different and free-spirited they easily strike up a bond. Eliza Scanlen is a sensation and you feel that she’s been on screen for many years, perhaps her ‘Sharp Objects’ brilliance aids the notion of her sublime cinematic presence but no, she’s just so good. Scanlen is a force of nature and leads the film with expressive features and heart-felt realism.

Look to the skies and see life in a new way, ‘Babyteeth’ has flashes of comedy, a charged musicality in Milla’s first foray into nightlife and an older beau but what wrenches your heart and stays with you is the reflection on a poignant and life-affirming tale.

6.5/10

 

Advertisements

Ready or Not (2019)

mv5byzbkmzaymdutztfkzs00owuyltgwm2itngi3mtq5nza3ntvkxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtkxnjuynq4040._v1_

Getting hitched is a crazy big commitment but the bride in ‘Ready or Not’ is letting herself into a commitment that’s just plain crazy. This flick is a darkly humourous horror that escalates to hellishly entertaining peaks.

Grace (Samara Weaving) has married Alex (Mark O-Brien) and is now part of the lavish Le Domas estate; one founded on money-making games. After their vows, Grace is told to join her new family at midnight to choose a card and play til dawn. The unfortunate news is that her selection is hide and seek; where everyone is out to find her and sacrifice her before the sun rises.

Games within the horror genre are a tried, tested and mostly failed thematic, lest we forget the atrocity of ‘Truth or Dare’, but this movie flips the trope upside down and inside out, and any dusty expectations are blown clean away. Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy have paired up to forge a furiously fun script bristling with spikes of murderous terror.

Gathering together a group of wealthy a-holes makes the more grounded personality of Grace that much more likable and also has you laughing at the exploits and grisly exits of rich wrong-uns. It’s true to say this movie is never out and out scary and doesn’t stump for the jump-scare tactic but this only helps to enforce what a brilliantly effective creation it is. The crimson soaked tension is exercised masterfully with bursts of humour and attacks of flinch-worthy gore.

Going along, the film seems to take sick pleasure in giving Grace a new lease of life only for her dreams and wedding dress to grow more soiled and ruined. The constant push and pull of her almost escaping, then being cornered into possible doom is always engaging and hypes the plot with a fresh, crisp punch of giddy gruesomeness.

Goodness gracious, Samara Weaving is a stunning force of delight through the entirety of ‘Ready or Not’. She possesses this unquestionable magnetic presence, as if her ever-shifting facial expressions and retorts to her crazy night hypnotise you into the film. Weaving heroically ploughs through the bloody onslaught of her in-laws demented tradition, like Bruce Campbell in ‘The Evil Dead’ or Alison Lohman in ‘Drag Me to Hell’. Obviously these are both Sam Raimi productions and this 2019 movie does feel like the latter tinged with ‘You’re Next’ and ‘Game Night’ and your sister when she’s hell bent on destroying you at Monopoly.

Giving just a bit more explanation to the concept behind the Le Domas gaming madness and to why Alex even has her stay, when he knows what could be on the cards feels like it could have helped round out the conviction of the story. The finale might also be a moment too outlandish for some but I found it to be a joyful explosion of revenge revelry.

Grace is a hoot, magnificently portrayed by a star who, shall no doubt keep on shining. The purity of marriage and stuffy families are swiftly knocked on their head to have audiences gleefully led down the aisle of foul-mouthed, bloody delirium.

7.5/10

Good Boys (2019)

mv5bmtc1njizodaxmf5bml5banbnxkftztgwmtgznzk1nzm40._v1_

From the minds that gave us ‘Superbad’ and ‘Sausage Party’ comes this equally expletive-laden misadventure. Only this time around, the supposed selling point is, that we’re not watching teens or animated food curse and cause calamity, but 12 year olds do it. Does having youngsters tread the staple route of trying to be cool and party pay off or is this plain bad?

Max (Jacob Tremblay) is invited to a kissing party where he hopes to finally make a move with the girl he crushes on. After getting his best pals AKA the Bean Bag Brothers along for the ride they realise they need to learn how to be more grown-up and understand how to kiss; this kicks off a series of events where they desperately hope to be cool, remain friends and not be grounded.

Let me start with the exceptionally low amount of positives. I’ll even list them for as there’s only four:

  1. The sight of the mates walking home slightly apart from one another after a bawl and break up is somewhat amusing.
  2. Tremblay reloading a fake gun and his weak-ass bedroom work out.
  3. A school initiative to prevent bullying called the SCAB squad.
  4. Will Forte

Aside from that bare rundown, this film is doggedly keen to force smut and adult humour onto the lips of tween stars. That is literally the idea of this movie. Any story is non-existent and barely serves to string moments of porn inspired stupidity or s and f-bombs together, which constantly plague the run-time.

There’s nothing you haven’t seen before within this insanely juvenile flick. Drones, crossing heavy traffic, parties, frat boys, drugs, developing strain on friendship before inevitably being all alright again. The only difference is that all these attributes are dispatched into the hands of prepubescent actors, who aren’t old enough to watch the film themselves, lucky devils.

‘Good Boys’ is ‘The Happytime Murders’ of 2019, even released very close to the same time of year. Where the latter coasted on the idea of having puppets swear, screw and swig booze, the former does the same swapping out fuzzy characters for youngsters. It’s a painful film to sit through, not even the try-hard antics of their comradery can save the ruthless desire to point and laugh at tweens say or do naughty things and the numerous usage of that age old American belief that slapstick is funny, only goes to further the fact that this is a terrible movie.

‘Good Boys’ thuds down like a badly piloted drone and scrapes its lame and tired premise through nearly 90 minutes of crud, that had me praying for a projection failure and an early exit.

3/10

 

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)

mv5botg4ztnkzmutmznlzi00ymfjltk1mmutnwqwntm0yjcyntnkxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjg2njqwmdq40._v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_

Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino is back with his self-claimed 9th feature; a rejigging of a closing curtain to the golden age of cinema. ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ fuses together a host of proficient profiles over a selection of stories set in 1969, but does the director strike gold?

Told from February to August ’69, we follow the lives of TV and struggling movie actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), who happen to cross paths with the rising talent of Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). As they all traverse the swinging summer of Los Angeles, they may wind up in the cross-hairs of Charles Manson and his family.

The name of this movie speaks volumes for the fairy-tale aspect of Tarantino’s story. In fact the title appears at the very end over a final shot as if posing a what if scenario in the history rewriting manner you come to expect from QT. You can clearly see the time and honour poured into the directors’ love letter to the cinematic and televisual era. It’s a bold movie with the sight and sounds of L.A show business and the hippy scene grooving with a doubtless richness.

The TV and movie landscape are framed like a commentary, with narration sweeping over the very beginning and then returning in the last third to have us grasp the changing career path of Rick Dalton; a man whose ups and downs are perfectly portrayed by DiCaprio. You can see the actor having a solidly good time playing the chain-smoking, semi-stuttering star; someone almost left behind by Hollywood as he hoped to break onto the silver screen.

As to be predicted with any Quentin billing, the dialogue is ever-constant and rife with zings and sensational cool. One moment in particular is when Dalton appears on a show called ”Lancer” opposite Timothy Olyphant’s James Stacy. This scene goes both in front and behind the camera with beautifully laden writing, yet it’s not only the speaking qualities of Tarantino’s screenplay that are glittering, the visual elements that make up the late 60s are glourious. The American pilot season is detailed with excellence, the adoration for classic film theatres and the happening parties jostling with famous faces are all wonderfully encapsulated throughout this picture.

It’s obvious that Tarantino is revelling in the idea of splicing Rick Dalton into real life shows and movies whilst coming up with his own concepts and because of this you cannot help but take pleasure in his accomplishment. Creativity isn’t just his Red Apple brand and new addition Wolf’s Tooth as sometimes he can go a smidge too far, so knowing the life of Sharon Tate and her cruel fate at the hands of drug-addled cult members were possible basis for part of the story was of course a worry, especially when Tarantino and his no-holds barred approach to making movies is concerned, but gladly he knows not to tread over the line and in regards to Tate and her friends the film is respectable and showcases her as a glowing ray of goodness, far removed from the sick ideals of the Manson group.

Speaking of, a scene right in the midst of the talkies magnificence provides sheer chills. Spahn Ranch is a dusty backdrop once utilised for movies now taken over by bare foot gals and from time to time, Charles Manson. The vibe that Cliff Booth and we walk into is immediately loaded with suspense, a truly unsettling sequence. The cult collective get their dues in typical QT fashion though, just when you think the auteur has forgotten about his violent overload, you’re bowled over by a final act that will divide some but had me gripped and grinning.

Even with all the glitzy L.A establishments, neon signs and movie sets, ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ is not Quentin’s best. Margot Robbie even with her infectious smile has little to do, the cinema making nature can often feel like it’s his most Academy baited outing and it doesn’t enrapture you at every single point. Weirdly, considering the extremity of the last moments, it comes across like a safe bet, one that I loved but still wasn’t swept away by.

A sprawling cast of actors, warmth in its recapturing of a heyday time and a class soundtrack curated by the extensive knowledge of Tarantino do combine to create a captivating film; one with more foot imagery than a chiropodist can match, but it just felt like it was missing that special something.

8/10

 

 

Hobbs & Shaw (2019)

mv5botizymuymmetmwqznc00yzexltk3mzytztuzyjmymmriyziwxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymdm2ndm2mq4040._v1_sy1000_cr006851000_al_

Rev up your engines blockbuster fans, because this summer sees the two breakout favourites from ‘The Fate of the Furious’ teaming up in their very own spin-off. Do The Rock and Stath make a dynamite duo or should this film have been stalled?

A virus called Snowflake is being hunted down by artificially altered Brixton (Idris Elba), but after it winds up in the hands of Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby), America and Britain must unite by pairing agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and mercenary Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) together to prevent Brixton from letting Snowflake spread and kill millions.

Shaw and Hobbs were entertaining in their moments during the main event of the eighth ‘Fast and Furious’ feature but is this breakaway movie something that works? Well, in some way it does, but I guess you can have too much of a good thing because there does become a point that them constantly on screen together wears thin. This is never going to be a cinematic classic but even for the popcorn flick it is, the comic touches are just laid on way too thick and the silliness is loaded to melting point.

Obviously a suspension of disbelief is necessary with these sorts of movies but your disbelief will be left dangling like a distant memory, as bursts of well-timed atmospheric lighting enhance battles and The Rock cum Captain America tussles with a mid-flight helicopter. Though saying this; it’s all good fun because of how incredibly stupid and over the top it is.

There is one song in ‘Hobbs & Shaw’ with the lyric; all roads lead home and this mirrors the family-centred ideals of the main franchise. So, don’t fear that this spin-off goes on a detour because the typical family/home mantra stays ever present and is used like expositional glue, trying to squeeze some meaning alongside the manic action.

Talking of which, the action is 110% high octane thrill and balls to the wall dumb but epically fun to watch. It’s a movie having no pretence that it’s lapping up the chance to incorporate tech. Gone are the nos fuelled days as street racing cannot even be seen in the rear view mirror anymore, ‘Hobbs & Shaw’ shifts gears to the growing trend of superhero films and provides powered up villainy in Brixton, making this F and F spin-off less about cars and more about world saving in the biggest way possible.

Johnson is charismatic and stony eyed with flexing muscles and fluctuating brows; he’s an island of a man who packs a weighty punch whilst his potty mouthed equal in London crook Statham convinces as a cooler operator, taking down opposition in his less bulky style. Together they deliver mean kills and impressive K.Os but with that comes laughable dialogue, yet nothing is as extra as the carnage left in their wake. Elba is fantastic and formidable and ultra cool as Brixton and there’s no denying he IS black Superman. Eiza Gonzalez is criminally underused but at least there’s the skill and dominance of Kirby who gives the film one major kick-ass female character and further proves that Princess Margaret is boss; long live her reign as action hero.

As long as you ditch your brain at the door, then ‘Hobbs & Shaw’ is a fast and furiously entertaining movie to watch in the moment and possibly forget come the end of summer.

7/10

Stuber (2019)

mv5boge1zjfhyzatywm4zc00ngi1lwfmyzmtzwrhzdhjmje4yzbjxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyodqznte3odc40._v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_

There’s standard fare American comedy; a lot of which is lowest common denominator humour and then there’s ‘Stuber’. This is a limp film needing to be put out of its misery that bears no laughter in both its premise and execution.

After laser-eye surgery prevents cop Victor (Dave Bautista) being as capable on the job as he wishes, he has to grab an Uber. The car that arrives is captained by sap Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) and together they’re forced into a hunt across L.A for drug trafficker Teijo (Iko Uwais).

There have been good recent comedies that swirl well choreographed action into the hijinks, such as, ‘Game Night’ and ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ but this movie is not one of those. Just from the opening sequence which tries to convey sizzling police-fuelled combat you’ll zone out because it’s horrendously edited. Perhaps the editor also had laser-eye surgery and couldn’t focus on cutting the scene properly as nor will you, trying to watch the frustrating melee of chops. It’s not even sliced erratically in a way that could heighten energy, all it does is bring on an early headache.

Tripper Clancy’s screenplay is painfully predictable; the villainy turns of corruption and the consequential reveal of Stu at Christmas is not a surprise in the slightest, even if the plot thinks it’s a funny zinger to end on. The entire friend zone subplot of Uber driver Stu is more sour than sweet and feels like the thinnest spread of romance lain on top of the worst excuse of comedy and action seen in a while. The film does try changing lanes with this B story at one point but it’s way too little way too late.

‘Stuber’ would be alright if there was a chemistry between Bautista and Nanjiani but that too is missing. It’s like the latter is over-compensating with his desperate pluck to counter-balance the dud actor within the hulking presence of Bautista; a former wrestler who is perfect as Drax but anything else is glaringly noticeable as not good acting. Victor as a character is a towering douchebag with zero to redeem himself whilst Stu is an irritant who serves as the annoying sidekick, his constant desire to please is more boring than funny.

As personal attacks on me as well I have to dislike the film further because it’s a story that does both Karen Gillan and Iko Uwais dirty. Their characters are as two-dimensional as everyone else in the narrative and they have such small, wasted screen time that I cannot help but feel victimised by that.

‘Stuber’ never raises a chuckle, it feels like a rushed action-comedy that you’d watch in 2002 after renting it from a nearby Blockbusters. Absolute drivel that is miles away from a 5 star rating; instead take a walk, enjoy the summer and avoid at all costs.

2.5/10

Pulp Fiction (1994)

71c05lte03l._sy679_

So last night I got the chance to see one of my all time favourite movies on the big screen, and this cinematic experience just illustrated further why I love ‘Pulp Fiction’ a hella lot.

Weaving together a collection of stories set in L.A, sees us flit forward and back in time with hit-men Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent Vega (John Travolta) claiming a briefcase with mysterious contents for crime boss Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames), a less than ideal date night with Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman), a restaurant robbery with Pumpkin (Tim Roth) and Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer) and a scramble for a watch with boxer Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis).

The title ‘Pulp Fiction’ derives from pulpy magazines and crime novels that were prone to violence and electric language. Quentin Tarantino’s script perfectly reflects that style, as all the way through his film there smacks a sense of crackling, dynamic dialogue and flashes of blood-soaked drama. The line-up of plots that criss cross and jump in time are exercises in vivid crime story-telling and hilarity, Tarantino sure knows how to juggle all these characters and each one of them through their plot progression, jump off the pulpy pages and cement themselves in film history.

As is commonplace knowledge nowadays, director and writer Tarantino has a handle on character and dialogue and his second feature, after the diamond heist focus of ‘Reservoir Dogs’, sees him step up from a singular location and really break forward with figures that deliver zing after zing, hit after hit and even though this is a movie that owns very little action, you are utterly entranced because the script possesses such animated language.

The very opening is a masterclass in two-way conversing leading to an aggressive slap of credits and fiery music; from this point onward you should know to expect a film that won’t hold back and will utilise on expletives, whip-smart talking, pop-cultural references and an energetic soundtrack. Some will say this 1994 outing is overrated and I get that it is the typical frat-boy movie to drool over, one that has film students plastering the iconic poster on their walls, one that I have in my room to this very day, because depending on your first watch, it is an awakening. The zip and crackle which speeds through the narrative is highly entertaining; it’s just one of those treats which is fresh and riveting from start to finish.

The stellar cast really bury into their roles and it saw a resurgence for Travolta who became cool again thanks to the suited, slick hair styling of Vega, a gangster who may not be intimidating, but in his down to earth delight of discussing Amsterdam and milkshakes there is a man who can hold his own, just as long as he doesn’t head to the toilet, an opportunity for something to go wrong every time. It’s with Vincent on his initially awkward night out with Mia that one of the most seminal scenes in cinema history occurs. Jack Rabbit Slims; a retro diner and location of the coolest, quirkiest twist off between Thurman and Travolta, the Chuck Berry vocals punctuate their movements and seeing the dance on a big screen was like a divine dream come true.

‘Pulp Fiction’ may be simple when broken down; it’s just 3-4 stories that get broken up and shuffled about, but it’s thanks to this non-chronological structure that you feel drawn into seeing how each character gets to each place or how they may join the same path. It’s true to say that a Tarantino product; with it’s sublime songs and own branded product placement is like an event but it’s fair to comment also that his films could always do with a little refinement, a snip here and an edit there but even though this is a long film, it never feels it and there was never a moment upon this re-watch where I felt something could be dropped.

I know I’m biased and definitely a fan boy but ‘Pulp Fiction’ is as close to perfection as humanely possible. The film holds up, it screams cool and is a movie absolutely rammed with quotable delights. Tarantino’s follow up feature is not the difficult second album, it’s his platinum picture.

9.5/10