Wherein your obedient cultural mine canary lists his screen consumption for the past month, with links to reviews where applicable.

This is a New Years Resolution type deal, and the reasons are twofold. One, to keep a handy archive of reviews across multiple platforms (Filmink and Celluloid & Whiskey); and two, to keep an eye on my watching habits and try and manage them better.

One month in, and so far I’ve noticed that so far only I’m re-watching things now when viewing something socially with friends, or for a specific reason, but that could simply be a result of wanting to present well in this format. Also, at the moment Transit times and other commitments mean my intake is actually down – I’ve watched less in January than, historically speaking, I normally would. Both of those things will doubtless change going forward.

FILMS

Young Guns 2

Underrated sequel, superior to its forebear, that spins an obscure nugget of Billy the Kid lore into an epic rock Western. The Bon Jovi songs have dated, but Silvestri’s score is an all-timer.

Love and Love Only

Wretched independent Australian film that charts the relationship between an Indian student and his Australian co-worker. Left unreviewed as a kindness.
Doc

’70s revisionist take on the Gunfight at the OK Corral. Full review here.
Ravenswood
Microbudget Australian horror set in an abandoned insane asylum. Moments of flair hampered by laziness outside of the “wow” moments. Full review here.
You’re So Cool Brewster: The Story of Fright Night

Exhaustive look at the 1985 vampire classic and its unjustly obscure sequel. A must for fans. Full review here.

Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds

Honest, human, warm and ultimately, for obvious reasons, quietly heartbreaking portrait of the famous mother and daughter pair. Full review here.

The Finest Hours

Rock solid based-on-real-life drama sees a Coast Guard crew, including Eric Bana, Chris Pine and Ben Foster, go the mat to rescue the crew of stricken cargo ship during a hellacious storm. A stirring tribute to everyday heroes.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Always worth another look, which happens quite often when I’m drunk (which I was). review here and, indeed, here
Jaws 
It seemed the thing to watch after Fury Road.

Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble

Enjoyable but shallow look at the famed cellist’s pan-cultural musical collective, from the director of 20 Feet From Stardom. Full review here

Wolfcop

Enjoyable modern Canucksploitation sees drunken smalltown cop Lou Garou (geddit!) solving a supernatural conspiracy even as he himself is cursed with lycanthropy. Full review here.
Split

M. Night Shyamalan returns to form in this story of three teen girls (including The Witch’s Anna Taylor-Joy) kidnapped by a man with 23 discrete personalities. Problematic but unarguably effective. Full review here.

Patriots Day

Self-consciously worthy but effective account of the Boston Marathon Bombing from journeyman Peter Berg. Full review here.

XXX: Return of Xander Cage

Surprisingly fun Vin Diesel action vehicle buoyed by a supprting cast that includes Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa. Full review here.

The Admiral: Roaring Currents
Stirring, bloody and action-packed Korean historical epic that sees a tiny Korean fleet commanded by the titular iron man take on a massive Japanese invasion fleet. Full review here

The Blob (1988)

Some of the effects have dated and it’s hard to believe we ever thought Kevin Dillon was cool, but assured, imaginative direction from Chuck Russell and a script co-written by Frank Darabont make this one worth revisiting.

Flesh and Blood
Paul Verhoeven’s first English language film, starring Rutger Hauer and the Antipodean one-two punch of Jack Thompson and Tom Burlinson, is an amazing grotesequerie packed with sex, violence and casual horror. Shaggy and a little shapeless, but admirable in its audacity as it follows a crew of amoral mercenaries as they rampage through Renaissance Italy. 
 Sabotage

On reflection, almost a modern version of Flesh and Blood! David Ayer directs Arnold Schwarzenegger as the leader of a crew of amoral DEA agents as they rampage through the War on Drugs, only to come undone when they swipe a cache of cartel money. The plot is Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians, but the cynical worldview is almost identical to Verhoeven’s.

Childhood of a Leader

Loosely based on a Sartre short story, this debut film from actor turned director Brady Corbett charts the development of a future fascist demagogue during the Versailles Treaty negotiations after the end of WWI. Stunningly atmospheric but a little murky in its thesis.

Resident Evil: The  Final Chapter

Allegedly final installment of the long-running video game actioner eschews the senseless over-plotting of the last couple of movies to wrap things up in a surprisingly satisfying way. Full review here

Down Under

Two carloads of angry young men, one full of white Australians, the other crewed by Lebanese Australians, go looking for trouble after the Cronulla Race Riots. Abe Forsythe’s black comedy  is frequently funny, but often not ha ha funny, in that the seriousness of the subject matter is difficult to leaven even by performers as talented as Damon Herriman. Still, should be mandatory viewing for all Australians. 

The Wolfman

Unfairly maligned backlot Gothic that saw Joe Johnston step into the director’s chair at the last minute after Mark Romanek bailed over the usual “creative differences”. Marred by the frankly bizarre decision to paper over Rick Baker’s makeup work with CGI (driving Baker to retire in frustration) and a rather rote werewolf-on-werewolf climax, but lifted by pitch-perfect performances from Benicio del Toro, Hugo Weaving, and especially Anthony Hopkins. Of all the Universal-style updates since – and including – Coppola’s Dracula, this is best in breed.


Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame
A bit of channel-surfing serendipity brought me to this again. This incredible return to form by Tsui Hark sees Andy Lau’s 7th century investigator take on a magical conspiracy as he tries to find out why the Empress’s most loyal servants are spontaneously combusting. Political intrigue, incredible fight sequences (staged by the great Sammo Hung), monsters, magic, and a seriously impressive sense of scale, mystery and wonder, this is one of the greats. I thought I’d written this up, but apparently I was mistaken – I should remedy that. This is the film I would show people to get them into wuxia cinema.
A Scanner Darkly

Richard Linklater’s pitch-perfect take on Philip K. Dick’s most humane and personal novel. Simply note perfect, by turns hilarious and tragic, and the best use of rotoscope animation in film history. 
Pork Pie

Modern remake of the New Zealand cult film, Goodbye Pork Pie. Review and interview coming soon.
TELEVISION
Trollhunters season 1

Guillermo del Toro and Dreamworks team up to bring us the story of ordinary teen charged with protecting a secret magical world beneath his home town. Sly humour, genuine pathos and GDT’s flair for strange wonder lift it above its rote precis. Full review here.

A Series of Unfortunate Events episodes 1 – 2

Fun take on the popular children’s books, and Neil Patrick Harris seems to be having a blast, but I never went back after the first couple. A return to form for director Barry Sonnenfeld, though.

Wild North episodes 1 – 3

decent nature doc series that looks at the diverse biomes of Norway. This is the sort of thing I watch to take the edge off. Recorded for posterity.

Underground episodes 1 – 4

Historical drama about a group of salves escaping from the Antebellum South on the Underground railroad. Takes some cues from Django Unchained initially, but soon becomes its own thing. Interview with actress Jess de Gouw here

The OA episode 1

Yeah nah.

The American West season 1

Handsome prestige documentary series, produced by none other than Robert Redford, that takes some of the most famous figures of the Old West – Jesse James, Billy the Kid, the Earps, Crazy Horse, Custer – and cuts between their stories to put them in chronological and political context. Some great recreations and it only occasionally succumbs to the print-the-legend instinct that almost always mars this kind of thing. 
Riverdale ep 1
A modern re-imagining of Archie and the gang that ups the sex and melodrama to – so far- good effect. Full review here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.