I Hate Cheesy-Romance Films. I Don’t Hate 10 Things I Hate About You.

10 Things I Hate About You is the best thing to come out of the 90’s.

I’m biased. I fully admit it.

I don’t like cheesy rom-coms because they bore me. But Ten Things I Hate About You isn’t like other rom-coms and you can pry it off my laptop hard drive from under my cold dead body. I’m making the assumption that you’ve watched this movie – but if you haven’t, do yourself a favour and see it. No one can argue with its engrossing story, excellent soundtrack, great cast, and the dynamite duo of 90’s Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles.

Ledger wears shiny pants, Stiles gets covered in paint and laughs about it – my uselessly bisexual self can’t handle it. I watched this movie so many times that my plan for an ideal date still revolves around the idea of spontaneous paintball that ends with us rolling around in the hay kissing. Don’t ask me how you can plan ‘spontaneous’ paintball, I’ve never worked that out.

When Valentine’s Day rolls around, with its inevitable emphasis on watching romantic films with your significant other, I always get to thinking about what a ‘romantic’ film actually is for me – beyond, of course, the self-insertion wish-fulfilment appeal of watching attractive people fall in love on a screen.

I think what draws me to the paintball scene is not the actual paintball or the kissing, but rather what the paintball and the kissing represent. It’s a moment between two people who let themselves be vulnerable idiots for and with each other. Throughout the film, we see Kat and Patrick fall for each other, making themselves vulnerable and finding that they’re accepted and understood by one-another.

It’s impossible to go on without mentioning the scene where Patrick hijacks the announcement system to perform ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You’ for Kat on the bleachers, complete with band accompaniment and dorky-fun dance moves. It’s a funny, cheesy, dumb-ass act and by no means is it a moment of swooning violins. But it works as a romantic gesture because of the vulnerability implicit in this act of ‘sacrificing himself on the altar of dignity’. There’s something real sexy about someone making a fool of themselves to make you laugh; making themselves vulnerable for you and hoping that you embrace and accept this part of them. There’s also something real sexy about Ledger’s singing, but that’s a given.

Arguably, it’s the mutual act of seeing and being seen by one another that allows for Patrick and Kat’s paint balling scene. It doesn’t matter that they act foolish in front of one another in this scene, because it’s already been done in front of everyone else. Patrick and Kat can just be in the paint balling scene – they don’t have to worry about maintaining the pretences and walls that everyone has one some level. They’re just two people throwing paint, rolling in hay, and falling in love. Now that’s what I call romance.

Romance is more than just the funny easy parts though, it’s also emotional vulnerability – and there is no better moment of emotional vulnerability that the titular scene where Kat reads her poem to Patrick in front of the entire class. It would be easy for Patrick to scoff, to maintain his image and security by mocking her feelings. But he doesn’t. In that moment he sees her (metaphorically) laid bare and completely accepts her. Her vulnerability is embraced and then returned with his own. It kills me every time.

If I ask for nothing else within romance, I ask to be accepted in my vulnerability. It might lack the passions of Pride and Prejudice or the high-drama of The Notebook but 10 Things portrays this so well. Forget angsty speeches in the rain or sexually charged touches. People letting themselves be vulnerable and not thinking of how they’ll look doing dumb stuff with the other person is where it’s at in romance. Bury me in roses and call me Cupid, because that melts me into a little puddle of goo. If, like me, you hate cheesy cliches but you want to watch an appropriately valentine-y movie, then crack open some hay bales and don your best 90’s clothing because 10 Things I Hate About You is calling your name.


 

Words by Taeghan Buggy

Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody is first and foremost a film about art. Themes of race, sexuality, and marginalisation are threaded throughout, but they do not define this flick. Instead, this film encourages us to revel in the brilliance of Queen and the everlasting impact of their music; in doing so, we also realise the spectacular nature of the one and only Freddie Mercury. This bio-pic begins at Queen’s conception, and carries us to their climax: Live Aid at Wembley Stadium, 1985.
The exploration of Queen’s timeline is fantastic, eccentric, and meaningful in this 2-hour masterpiece: the closeness within the band, and their shared love of music, was held at the centre, making it known that some of the greatest music in recent history was born from true passion. Mercury’s extraordinary character was captured in its entirety as Rami Malek gives a performance to end all performances – Freddie, teeth and all, was seen in every quiver while singing, and in every expression of tender emotion. If you are familiar with the entire Queen clan, performances from Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy and Joseph Mazzello as Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon, respectively, are equally as accurate. Even to one who is unfamiliar, all four performers deliver embodiments that are endearing and highly entertaining.
The narrative arc works through the creation of Queen’s iconic tunes, as each hit uncovers unique meanings and diverse impacts on audiences. The jaw-dropping performances from the cast, alongside marvellous cinematography, combined with an epic recreation of the on-screen set, takes audience members to another time and place, allowing us to forget that we are simply sitting in a little cinema in Adelaide. After each song was performed, I had to actively stop myself from cheering in the cinema.
I think one of the most remarkable aspects of this film is that it was curated with significant input from two of Mercury’s closest friends – two of the remaining members of Queen – Brian May and Roger Taylor. May and Taylor embarked on this project in order to conserve Mercury’s privacy and honour his memory in a way that would have pleased the lead singer. As you will see, Mercury wanted nothing more than to produce masterpiece after masterpiece with those dearest to him, and to leave a legacy which encompassed his identity as a performer and an artist. May and Taylor ensured this film celebrates Mercury. Bohemian Rhapsody does not expose more of Mercury’s dirty laundry, but gives context to the scandals and drama that the world has already got its hands on. Our satisfaction with this level of privacy did not seem to be a point of consideration during production: an approach that should be applauded, or at the very least, respected. In this day and age there appears to be a general understanding that we are entitled to every detail, humiliation and love affair in the lives of celebrities, as if we own them. This sense of entitlement has been encouraged by information leaks and the fact that ‘drama’ sells. But in truth, folks, we are not this way entitled. Bohemian Rhapsody shows us this, puts us in our place, and asks us to admire the talent and wonder in the work that Queen sent our way, not froth over the issues that they prefer to keep to themselves.
The final thing I have to say about this film is that if you don’t enjoy it, you will at least respect it. It tells the story of a band of outcasts who produced work of such excellence they left behind a legacy far bigger than themselves. Bohemian Rhapsody focuses of an individual who broke conventions on a scale that we may never see again. For generations Queen’s music has been adored and is still sprinkled throughout our culture today, 30 years on: every time someone sings “We are the champions” after their team wins a game in primary school, every “Bohemian Rhapsody” sing along at parties, every reference to “Another one bites the dust” when talking about CPR. Without Queen, art and our general experiences would be increasingly different today.
Bottom line, go see this Queen sized extravaganza.

 


Words by Michelle Wakim.

The Cheesiest Christmas Movies of 2018 (That you can watch from the non-judgemental safety of your own home)

Put on your ugliest sweater, grab some gingerbread and hit that remote because it’s December and that means it’s time for another year’s serving of cheesy, trope-filled Christmas movies. I’ve seen enough Christmas movies to last a lifetime so I’m here to give you the run down on some of this year’s brand new holiday flicks (that feel like they were shot in the 90s).

For the sake of length (and because there are only so many Christmas movies I can watch in November before I lose my sanity) this list is made up of Christmas movies released in 2018 on, and by, Netflix.

The Holiday Calendar

In this romantic Christmas flick photographer Abby (Kat Graham) finds herself in possession of a magical advent calendar (you know, the ones with a door for each day but you always open several doors in one go because a tiny piece of chocolate a day isn’t enough). Of course, instead of holiday treats, this calendar chucks a man Abby’s way. The guy in question is Ty (Ethan Peck), a single dad who is also a doctor and, through some kind of witchcraft, has enough free time to go on dates every single night. Oh, and he’s typical nice-rich-guy good looking, just in case that wasn’t obvious. But Ty isn’t the only man vying for Abby’s love. We also have Abby’s pal Josh (Quincy Brown) who is so deep in the friend-zone at the start of the movie that you know he’s the one.
This movie has all the classic tropes of a 90’s ‘working woman who doesn’t have time for love’ romance flick, with some equally outdated Christmas kitsch thrown in for good measure. Abby’s grandfather sports a fantastically tacky DIY Christmas vest and her family is so painfully middle-class they have a mantel-piece covered in annual family photos. This is like nostalgia porn with the odd iPhone thrown into the mix, just to remind you this movie came out in 2018.
Kat Graham gives a pretty solid performance but the rest of the cast struggles with dialogue so forced you’d think the script was causing them physical pain. Then there are the just plain bizarre and mediocre elements of the film: Abby’s photographs mostly look like she took them while being shot out of a canon, Ty somehow manages to lavish a woman he hardly knows with gifts and extravagant dates every night– making you wonder if he ever actually sees his daughter.
But the film isn’t without it’s saving graces. There are little touches of things you wouldn’t find in a mainstream Christmas movie twenty years ago. There’s the focus on Abby’s career. She’s bummed out with her current job, where her boss is a total jerk-off and she doesn’t get to express her real passion (taking Santa photos isn’t exactly what any arts grad would call ‘career fulfilment’). Her mother is constantly riding her about how photography isn’t a ‘real’ career which, for any arts worker watching, hits very close to home. Throughout the movie Abby’s passion for photography remains at the forefront of the story, placing the romantic plot more on the back-foot. In fact, even though there is a classic ‘career woman needs love’ element to the story, the more powerful message is that Abby shouldn’t give up on her dream.
The final verdict: The Holiday Calendar is an old-school Christmas romance with a bit of a modern touch to it. Easy watching if a little slow and with some seriously cliché and stunted dialogue. Best served with a glass of cheap red, in true arts-grad solidarity.

red baublered bauble

Christmas With a View

Proving that Netflix doesn’t hold the monopoly on romantic Christmas movies, Christmas With a View is surprisingly charming despite its simple plot. Proudly toting itself as an adaptation of a Harlequin novel at just 15 seconds into its run time, this is a movie that delivers exactly what it promises.
The story centres around Clara (Kaitlyn Leeb), the manager of an ultra-modern ski resort restaurant who, like any working woman in a Christmas flick since time immemorial, doesn’t have time for romance. Of course, the arrival of celebrity chef Shane Roarke (Scott Cavalheiro) changes everything. Stuck between her growing feelings for Shane and her own career aspirations, Clara also has to deal with the demands of her boss, owner of the resort Hugh Peters (Mark Ghanimé).
This really does feel like stepping into a festive romance novel, complete with atmospheric shots of snow covered landscapes and cosy decorated rooms in almost every scene. This movie does well when it comes to setting but also delivers a simple but sweet story that feels both modern and timeless. There are no ugly DIY sweaters to be found in this Christmas flick, and while it has classical elements it feels decidedly modern.
Love interest Shane is such a nice, well-meaning guy that, honestly, it’s almost refreshing. Which, in 2018, seems a little crazy. But honestly, we’ve seen so many douchebag heroes and love-interests (thanks a lot, E.L. James), that Shane being a genuinely good guy felt like a breath of fresh air. Just ignore that really shocking green-screen cooking show introduction of his character (stock-image background of a blocky, fake kitchen, anyone?).
The only other characters of any note are Clara’s friend Bonnie (Kristen Kurnik) who seems so dumb that at times I cringed hard enough to cause myself physical pain, and the scummy Hugh Peters whose scheming led to a bit of a Scooby-Doo gang break in which was, admittedly, a little fun despite being ridiculous.
The final verdict: It ain’t half bad. Of course, don’t watch this movie expecting anything new and unique. This is a Christmas movie, after all. But if you want a cheesy, sweet and easy romance this is a good one to pop on with a mug full of cocoa.

red baublered baublered bauble

The Princess Switch

It’s a trope as well-worn as two characters landing a hotel room with only one bed. I’m talking about the old classic: ordinary, usually working-class person looks exactly like someone rich/famous/noble/royal and they switch lives. Now, I’ll admit I’m not a fan of this trope. The only time I’ve ever enjoyed it was in BoJack Horseman when Todd switched places with the tyrannical prince Gustav of Cordovia (which sounds like a country made-to-order for a Christmas movie). So you could say I came to this movie with a certain level of apprehension.
This movie is exactly what you’d expect. Our heroine, Stacy (Vanessa Hudgens) is a baker who finds herself travelling to an oh-so-cosy made-up country called Belgravia, where everyone is (a) talking like they’re auditioning for Downtown Abbey, and, (b) obsessed with good, old fashioned, wholesome Christmas traditions. Stacy is set to compete in the nation’s annual Christmas baking competition which is, for some reason, a really big deal. But she’s not alone. Her friend Kevin (Nick Sagar) and his daughter Olivia (Alexa Odeosun) are coming along for the ride.
But it isn’t long before Stacy has a chance encounter with Duchess Margaret, her doppelganger and future bride of Prince Edward of Belgravia (Sam Palladio). Margaret wants to experience living like a commoner so she strikes a deal with Stacy. They’ll switch lives for a few days and, in exchange, Margaret will give Stacy whatever she wants (I would have asked for a house or something else expensive, but Stacy has more humble things in mind). Naturally, Stacy starts to fall for the dashing prince Edward (whose riding pants are so tight they might as well be a second skin), while Margaret gets close to Kevin and dotes upon Olivia. Cue the cheerful snow-ball fight montage!
This movie has so many clichés you can set your watch by them. Cute orphans: check. Dead parents: check. Magical old man who shows up at random intervals to impart wisdom: check. It also wouldn’t be a switch-places story without both women knowing next to nothing about the other’s life, or way of life. We get treated to Stacy’s complete ignorance about Margaret’s home country of Montenaro (does this girl not know about Google?), Margaret’s helplessness when it comes to speaking like one of the commoners and the much known fact: all rich people are good at riding horses.
This movie is also so much like a certain other Netflix Christmas film involving royalty and an American girl falling for a Prince that when I sat down to write this review I had to keep asking myself ‘did that one piano scene happen in this movie or that other one?’ (it was this one. I think). Thankfully, The Princess Switch is so self-aware that it actually has a couple of the characters sit down and watch A Christmas Prince during the movie. But unlike A Christmas Prince, this movie never quite sticks the landing on the fairytale romance. The ending is too perfect. There was no conflict whatsoever. Seriously, no one cared about the switch. Literally no one at all.
The final verdict: It’s not terrible, but all the adorable orphans in Belgravia couldn’t sell this one for me. It was a little too light, too cheerful. The best cheesy Christmas films need some drama, some actual stakes. This one doesn’t deliver. Tackle this one with a glass of mead. It’ll be almost as sickly-sweet as this movie.

red baublered bauble

A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding

If you haven’t seen the first instalment of A Christmas Prince, do yourself a favour and give it a watch, then report back for some dirt on the sequel.
Is there anything that says Christmas more than British accents and the monarchy? Given the recent influx of royalty themed Christmas movies you’ve got to wonder if people in the US think that the whole holiday season is actually about snooping around old-school British traditions (and they may be onto something). In this second instalment of A Christmas Prince, Amber (Rose McIver) returns to the fictional quasi-British country of Aldovia to prepare for her wedding. But she’s in for a rough time. Not only is she forced to follow a bunch of old and tacky traditions, but she also has to deal with Aldovia’s financial troubles. Her husband-to-be, Richard (Ben Lamb), faces the nation’s financial crisis in the only way politicians know how to – by going to lots of meetings. Amber wants to play a more proactive role in the political sphere but gets stuck watching other people plan her wedding. Understandably, she’s a little salty about this, especially when she gets told she can’t blog (because blogs are still a pretty big medium in 2018, am I right?).
Teaming up with her best friends from New York, the king’s little sister Emily and the pathetic antagonist from last year’s movie, Simon, Amber sets out on a quest to uncover the mystery of where-the-flip-is-Aldovia’s-money-going (a mystery you’ll solve the moment they mention it). Unlike the adoption scandal twist from the last movie, the stakes in The Royal Wedding feel far lower. Plus, the movie spends so much time on cutesy sub-plots (Amber’s dad falling for the surly palace chef, Emily’s Christmas play and an obligatory green-screen tobogganing sequence, to mention a few) that the missing money plot feels shallow and tacked on. On top of that, the romance itself is thin on the ground. Richard spends so much time in meetings that sometimes I forgot he was even meant to be a main character. When he is on screen he adds very little to the story save for reminding everyone how stressful it is to be king (we get it Richard, being rich is hard).
The film’s saving grace is princess Emily, probably because she seems to have more intellect and skills than the rest of the characters combined. She’s a master archer, can hack into government files and she’s a DJ? She’s also played as less of the ‘loveable disabled child’ in this film, with the focus more on her skills and sass rather than her wheelchair and crutches.
But this brings up another issue I have with this franchise: why is everyone in Aldovia so overbearingly white? The only non-white characters in either film are Amber’s friend Melissa (Tahirah Sharif) and the super campy wedding planner Sahil (Raj Bajaj). I get that Aldovia is a small European nation full of people with British accents but surely at some point in its 700-ish years of fantastical existence people from other countries and ethnicities would have shown up? Or does Aldovia have some kind of weird ‘whites-only’ policy like a quaintly British version of the South African apartheid? Okay, maybe I’m expecting a little too much world-building from a Hallmark-style Christmas movie, but my point stands.
So what’s the final verdict on the second A Christmas Prince movie? It was alright as far as cheesy, predictable Christmas flicks go but as a sequel it was lacklustre. The first instalment at least had some glitz and glamour (which probably may have contributed to the Aldovian financial crisis) and a cosy, classical feel. This year’s serving felt pared back and far less Christmassy, mostly because it tried to cram so many little storylines into a 1 hour 32 minute movie. Give it a watch after a couple of glasses of white and report back on the only storyline that mattered: Emily’s romantic arc with the adorable Tom Quill (Billy Angel).

red baublered baublered bauble


Words by Lisandra Linde
Lisandra Linde is an Adelaide-based writer of fantasy and creative nonfiction. Her work has appeared in Feminartsy, Empire Times, Bowen Street Press anthologies Pulse and Tattoo and elsewhere. She tweets at @KrestianLullaby

Bad Times at the El Royale

Bad Times at the El Royale is an extremely stylish film that has more than enough substance to fit the sizeable duration (141 minutes). The cast is a perfect fit and the writing, direction, and style as it is, all conspires to a film of near perfection.

The film’s greatest weakness is its sprawling backstories which paint the disparate histories of characters with no real reason to be together. It’s clear the intention is to speak to something universal, about, dare I say it, the human condition.

Beginning slow and ratcheting up the tension to a level that verges on a psychic assault on the audience, one cannot look away, however much they may wish to. The final act of the film is almost unbearable as this film slowly grips the audience and never slackens.

There is nothing off the table in this film where every risk feels dangerously real. The film makes the audience feel fury, grief, tension, and terror at its will. We as the audience have our emotional strings played masterfully.

This is a film that sits in my mind and dominates my thoughts. I am left thinking of all the chances characters had to take other actions and make their lives easier.

Everyone has a secret self, illustrated by the overt duality of the California-Nevada border bisecting the hotel. Each character’s façade is presented first before their true selves are revealed. We are invited to understand the fundamentally split nature of humanity and our capacity for kindness and cruelty. These capacities are shown in stark and brutal context at times.

The brutal events are complimented by moments of real human tenderness – without which this film may not be bearable. It digs deep and uncovers so much that few films can sit beside it as such great examples of character studies.

Humanity is under the microscope in this spectacle of a film. The style is obvious but the substance is what really affects the viewer.

It sets up an Agatha Christe-style situation and then eschews the tired narratives of a whodunnit in favour of a real assessment of how people act under pressure. Even the audience is under pressure and this film is guaranteed to elicit responses from you as a viewer that you are unlikely to expect – it certainly did me.
Go and see this film and be prepared for its unflinching portrayal of the evil of violence, the goodness of kindness, and the frailties of human beings.

This film and its characters will take up residency in your mind and will not be quick to leave. No actor does anything but soar in their role yet still the standouts are Jeff Bridges as Father Daniel Flynn, Lewis Pullman as Miles Miller (perhaps the story’s heart and soul), and Cynthia Erivo as Darlene Sweet. Bridges and Erivo engage in some breathtaking scenes with Chris Hemsworth’s Billy Lee, and Pullman’s performance in some scenes is enough to chill the blood and the break the heart of every viewer.

4.5 stars

PS: It also features a couple of small performances by Parks and Recreation alumni which will be a small delight for fans of that show, just like it was for me!

 


Words by Liam McNally

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

After watching the original Mamma Mia, we were left feeling jolly and warm. Not only was I feeling jolly after Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, but I felt as if I had been filled to the brim with sunshine. Our good friend Ol Parker, director of both Mamma Mia extravaganzas, did the job, and did it well.

Our narrative picks up where we left off on the idyllic, fantasy Greek island of Kalokairi (yes I legitimately thought it was a real place too) – boy, is it good to be back! This time, in a 110-minute feature, viewers are gifted with both a prequel and a sequel in one – the holes in the past are filled, and the future is unravelling before our eyes. To the dismay of many, the character of Donna – Meryl Streep’s original role as the much loved, overall-wearing, ‘dancing queen’ – had passed on. Instead, we see Sophie, Donna’s daughter played by Amanda Seyfried, battle with the grief of losing her mother. Paralleling the events of the present, we see flashbacks to the late 1970s where a youthful Donna, portrayed by Lily James, lives out the events which lead to the ‘three-possible-dads’ scenario – Donna falls pregnant, but the father is unknown. Along the journey, you will see the downright awkwardness of young love, the allure of summer romances, and the enteral love that is found in a soul-mate (of the romantic, platonic, and filarial kind).

James had big boots to fill. Not only was she climbing into the character of Donna Sheridan, one of the most loved female protagonists in musical theatre history, but she was to be completing the backstory of a character once played by the queen of the craft herself: Meryl Streep. James’ ability to combine effortless charm with an attractive serenity, while including a side of youthful excitement, made for an endearing portrayal of young Donna. Her performance was the perfect complement to Steep’s work in the first film. You can’t help but fall in love with her character.

As the film rolls on, all the fan favourites come into focus and take us on a trip down memory lane – we loved the characters once, and we were more than ready to love them again. Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgård, and Colin Firth return to the screen as Sam, Bill, and Harry, respectively, and are still in tip-top shape as they bumble about and bring interesting vocal qualities to the film. There is a continuity in the casting that is satisfying and appealing. We also get to know Harry, Sam and Bill in their youth; this casting was a spectacular feat. Jeremy Irvine, Josh Dylan, and Hugh Skinner took our collective breath away as our three dashing dudes: their performances effectively realised the imagined pasts of the leading men. And we cannot forget Julie Walters and Christine Baranski, who return as Rosie and Tanya, Donna’s greatest friends – Walters and Baranki’s performances have not withered with time. As fabulous in their old age as they were in their youth, these characters bring additional layers of sensitivity, sass, and sexiness to the smorgasbord of extraordinary personalities.

With every flare, platform shoe, and atrociously patterned outfit, the dance moves get better and better. They are groovy and visually appealing. They capture the past as well as the present, and appear to allow for the actors to genuinely enjoy their work. I speak specifically of the free-style dancing from Brosnan, Skarsgård and Firth, which generated laughs from every corner of the theatre. In case you were wondering, the soundtrack is available on all streaming platforms (I’ve checked and downloaded). Aside from a few classics – ‘Mamma Mia’ and ‘Dancing Queen’ included – the soundtrack is fresh, and the songs fit seamlessly amidst the storyline – credit must be given to the writers, Catherine Johnson, Richard Curtis, and Ol Parker.

This film finishes in a way that is uniquely Mamma Mia. The ensemble, dressed in ABBA themed costumes, crank out ‘Super-Trooper’ and viewers see the cast, half themselves and half in character, genuinely having the time of their lives. Old versions of characters are dancing with young versions of themselves, Cher is shuffling along in pumps, and even Streep is there joining in on the fun (just a warning, get the tissues out for her return…I sobbed a little).

And to finish, beneath the ‘Waterloo’s and ‘Fernando’s, there is something empowering within this film. We see a young woman travel solo across the world to ‘make memories’ (a concept that still has fear surrounding it today). We see this same woman engage in relationships and catch feelings in ways that are familiar, but are not always accepted. We see this woman keep friendships (and female friendships at that) which last a lifetime. And finally, we see her raise a child, successfully, on her own. All the while we get an ABBA soundtrack as background music for this narrative (what a win).

The way I see it, this film wasn’t produced for critics, and it doesn’t demand to be showered with awards and accolades. It was made for the regular people out there who, amongst their busy and stressful lives, deserve to go and see a film that makes them want to groove their socks off.

Also, a penny for the thoughts of some Adelaide viewers:

‘We thought it was a lot more slick than the first movie. The choreography was polished, and the songs fit the storyline perfectly.’ – Rachael

‘Slow start but once you’re in, you’re in! And by in, we mean up and dancing.’ – Kat

‘It was so spectacular and so pure!’ – Andrew

‘It’s rare that a sequel is just as joyful and full of excitement and soul as the original!’ – Christina

‘It’s just pure, unadulterated fun!’ – Dana

 


Words by Michelle Wakim.

Hereditary

In our current horror canon brimming with found-footage invisible demon encounters, possessed dolls and questionable nuns, Ari Aster’s Hereditary is a further step towards the horror genre being taken seriously.

The film follows the Graham family in the aftermath of Annie’s (Toni Collette) mother’s funeral. Her death, seemingly innocuous, begins a sequence of disturbing and violent events which cause the family unit and the individuals within it to unravel. As basic a plot description as that seems, going into detail ruins all kinds of nasty surprises – the trailer itself barely reveals anything. And indeed, this horror film can be considered a mystery with your viewing experience underlined by mutterings of ‘what the hell is going on?’ to the friend you forced to accompany you and the answers not being revealed until the last twenty or so minutes.

What can be revealed though is that the film is horrifically transfixing. Aster (who also wrote the film) has created an atmosphere that we coexist with forces both omnipresent and evil. It is another example of horror-drama (which I could abbreviate as ‘dramor’, or if you’re feeling particularly risqué: ‘horma’) that joins other films such as The Witch in depicting the destruction of the family unit as they fight against the incomprehensible. When you watch the film, there is this constant sense of dread and wrongness, like the conviction that eyes are watching when you leave the closet door slightly ajar. It is the ambiguousness of the evil force disrupting the family that is possibly the most unsettling thing about this film and keeps your eyes on the screen for fear you’ll miss some essential clue. But let me save you the time: you will literally never guess what is going on. The ending, however, is very polarising. While it (thankfully) explains the reasons behind everything, it comes out of left field and doesn’t have as satisfying a payoff as I wanted. You will have your questions answered but you might feel annoyed or perplexed at the answers – expect the unexpected.

I cannot say anything bad about the acting. Toni Collette’s portrayal of Annie engages in all extremes of the emotional spectrum: comedically cavalier or thrashing in the throes of grief – she convinces you. Gabriel Byrne, as her husband Steve, represents a more introverted despondency that is all the more crushing for being hidden. Annie’s children Peter (Alex Wolff) and Charlie (Milly Shapiro) deliver performances that are soul-crushingly affective. Every character walks with the pall of defeat, drained of colour and optimism and we, the audience, feel similarly defeated; rooting for an unrealistic happy ending. It feels like we are watching their essences being slowly siphoned off leaving hollow vessels in their place.

With very few jump scares and very few instances of gore (though they are quite visceral), Hereditary still proves an unsettling, emotional watch. It might not give you those Paranormal Activity-esque sleepless nights but you may leave feeling a little hopeless. We won’t blame you for keeping tabs on your family either, for the film proves that are worse things in the world than that uncle who gets drunk at the family barbecue and asks intrusive questions.

 

 


Words by JT Early.

3.5/5 stars.

Solo

Appearing to be a fun caper film, Solo, directed by Ron Howard, dives deep into a world of crime and cruelty just slightly too real for the Star Wars universe. The film’s villain, Dryden Voss (Paul Bettany) is a very human-like sadist whose presence hangs heavy over the movie and keeps it feeling threatening and unpredictable. In these respects, the movie succeeds utterly but it does not feel like the film heist in space we were sold. Nor does it really feel like a Star Wars film.

The creation of the new Star Wars Anthology series was to be able to tell new stories in this galaxy far, far away. Rogue One, the first in the series, established this could be done and done well, albeit, with a strong reliance on the established elements of the Skywalker saga with the supporting role afforded to Vader and the strong focus on the Death Star. Solo proves there is great danger in straying too far from this success.

Despite its successful fan service in dropping names like ‘Aurra Sing’ and ‘Bossk’ that mean little to the casual viewer but reward the more committed fans, the film feels very unlike Star Wars. This creeps in small things like the brutality of the war scenes, the allusions to the nature of Lando Calrissian’s relationship with his droid, the Lovecraftian space beast, the near-swearing, and the frequent off-colour jokes. Where the film feels least like a Star Wars film is in the presence of Dryden Voss, a character whose connection with and behaviour towards the main female character is often alluded to in a way that leaves an unsettling feeling.

The film’s handling of Emilia Clarke’s, Qi’ra feels a little off. Her story is only ever alluded to and the brief glimpses we get make it seem clear we could not see any more in a film using the Star Wars brand which makes one wonder why they chose to use such dark themes. This is territory well outside the expected for Star Wars and it seems unable to do it justice.

As the film continues, it becomes clear that it was an unnecessary endeavour. It fleshes out elements of the series that were better left as vague comments and world-building never elucidated upon. The character of Han Solo feels slightly diminished by being explored in such a thorough manner. He shot (literally) his way onto the screen in 1977 and was best left that way. Alden Ehrenreich does a thoroughly serviceable job as Han but it’s now obvious that Han Solo is not a role that can be so easily handed from one actor to another as works with James Bond. Whether he likes it or not, Harrison Ford was Han Solo.

Donald Glover’s, Lando Calrissian is perfect which is particularly remarkable for such an iconic character and proves the highlight of the film but his role is not enough to overcome the film’s issues.

Like Anakin Skywalker, Han Solo does not benefit from an origin story – the mystery was far better than anything a film could show.

It looks as though this Anthology film was supposed to launch another series but it is likely best it doesn’t. The unexpected arrival of a fan favourite character sent a ripple of excitement throughout the cinema but ultimately adds little.

It’s hard to see what this film was supposed to be – fun caper, brutal gangster film, or special effects extravaganza. Whichever one Howard  finally decided upon, he couldn’t quite get it right. This underworld is too real, too brutal, and populated by too vile a group of characters for the audience to escape without feeling faintly dirty for being immersed in that environment. This film could be a tremendous success as a separate entity but not so for the Star Wars franchise where the more unsettling elements are usually clothed in the alien as in Jabba the Hutt and his ilk. Here we have the very nearly human face of Dryden to associate with evil and corruption. A trip to the galaxy far, far away should feel like a more enjoyable experience than this. The suffering and cruelty is on an individual level here as the series jarringly tries to be both space opera and portrait of humanity existing in extremes.

Solo is not a bad film but it certainly is a disappointing and an unnecessary one. There’s a crueller edge to this film than any before and a more sordid world to see. Complete with off-colour jokes and hints of very real evils, it’s hard to see quite who this film was made to please. Whatever the plan, the result is a decent attempt but ultimately the most unsatisfying entry in the series.

 


Words by Liam McNally.

2.5 stars.

Breath

This adaptation of the Tim Winton novel of the same name, is a love letter to the hard, unpredictable, nature of the ocean. The film is the directorial debut by Simon Baker, of The Mentalist fame, and was adapted for the screen by Winton, Baker and Gerard Lee. It’s a close adaptation of the novel, which follows Pikelet (Samson Coulson) and Loonie (Ben Spence), two young Australian boys. The film starts with them falling in love with surfing at the age of thirteen. Enigmatic former pro surfer, Sando (Simon Baker) and his wife, Eva (Elizabeth Debicki), enter their lives soon after.

 

Set in the South West Coast of Western Australia, Breath is a lush, beautiful piece of cinema. The action and character interaction are interspersed with long beautiful shots of the beach, and Pikelet and his best friend Loonie (Ben Spence) drifting along the ocean’s current. The long shots of the surf and the creek beds and the silhouetted gum tree added an almost haunted sense of solitude and stillness. The film’s evocative use of landscape is one of its strongest features, and I couldn’t help but think of Tim Winton’s prose as I watched.

 

As much as Breath is a film about the ocean, it is also about boyhood, fear, and the danger of obsessive love. The boys fall in love with the feeling of dancing on water, and when Sando appears in their lives they try desperately to write themselves into his thrill-seeking life. Sando chases bigger and more dangerous waves, and the two boys – Loonie especially – follow him in his quest. Fear rules most of Pikelet’s time on his board – he loves the ocean and surfing but cannot seem to commit himself with the same reckless abandon as his mate, Loonie. Loonie, a kid who has grown up with abusive parents and the grim certainty he will never matter – sees surfing as something he can lose himself in entirely.

 

The emotional arc of the movie follows the timid Pikelet working up enough courage to stand up for himself. The character is prone to panic attacks and bouts of being completely frozen in frightening situations. Loonie and even Sando sometimes, sees these attacks as Pikelet being a ‘pussy’ or somehow less manly. In the end, Pikelet rejects this rigid form of masculinity – he still loves surfing and the ocean but he wants to do it on his terms.

 

However, Breath is also home to many moments of tenderness. The relationship between the much older Sando and the boys is built on a foundation of mutual affection. Sando is always quick to help Pikelet calm down during one of his panics and takes on Loonie’s wildness with a sense of admiration. Despite being rife with the posturing and insecurities and jealousy of teenage boys, the relationship between Pikelet and Loonie is a caring one. Pikelet often offers Loonie a safe place to stay when his father is being abusive. The scenes where they attempt to earn enough money for their first surfboards by doing a bunch of shitty jobs for not very much money, are delightful.

 

My biggest issue about the film comes in the form of Eva, Sando’s wife. Eva is a former professional skier from Utah, USA. She is forced to give up the sport after an accident does severe and permanent damage to her knee. For much of the film she exists as a dark, angry spectre on the edge of the boy’s close relationship with her husband. ‘I don’t want them here,’ she hisses to Sando, upon seeing the boys in her driveway. After Sando and Loonie disappear to Indonesia leaving her and the other boy behind, Eva seduces the school age Pikelet into an increasingly disturbing sexual relationship. The relationship ends after Pikelet discovers Eva is pregnant. It’s unclear whether the child is his or Sando’s. The script doesn’t offer Eva much beyond being Sando’s wife and her relationship with Pikelet. She is obviously a character in pain and frustrated by the turn her life has taken and there seems to be no escape for her. The last we see of Eva is her carefully blank face as she tells Pikelet to go home after he sees the new swell of her belly. Indeed, ‘carefully blank’ seems to be the most we get out of the only female character with any significant screen time.

 

I enjoyed this film for the most part and I think fans of Tim Winton will not be disappointed by this adaptation.

 


Words by Riana Kinlough.

Three stars.

Deadpool 2

Everyone’s favourite anti-hero is back, in a sequel that is most definitely bigger and better.

 

Deadpool 2 immediately opens with a too-soon Hugh Jackman joke and a shot of Deadpool in his blue Crocs, which to me was an instant reassurance that I would not be disappointed with this sequel. Although fair warning – if the first 10 minutes of Avengers: Infinity War made you cry, you might want to bring a tissue to Deadpool 2 too.

 

In the sequel, we find Wade Wilson working his way around the globe, confident in his new role as a superhero, applying justice to bad guys in any continent. But right at the peak of his success, tragedy strikes, and Deadpool finds himself back with the X-Men.  They are dispatched to save Russell Collins – a 14-year old boy with out of control explosive powers – wanted by the film’s villain, Cable. Seeing Russell as a way of redemption and creating a purpose to his life, Deadpool makes it his mission to save him from danger.

 

The introduction of new characters goes well, with Russell Collins AKA Firefist (Julian Dennisen), the loveable mutant orphan, and Domino (Zazie Beetz), a superhero with the power of “luck” (which is now officially the superpower I would choose, over invisibility or super strength ANY DAY OF THE WEEK) being stand-outs of the growing cast. Josh Brolin plays the villain, Cable, his second role as a Marvel villain this month after playing Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, and has excellent chemistry with Reynolds, when kicking each other’s asses, or verbal taunting. It was nice to see the return of Dopinder, the taxi driver, now wanting to join the superhero leagues; and Collosus and Deadpool shared some deeply beautiful moments. Blind Al and Weasel, of course, continue to deliver some of the world’s most quotable punchlines.

 

Leaving the cinema and pondering away, I really struggled to find anything wrong with this movie. Overall, I was extremely impressed. The characters are strong, the story is well-paced (more so than the original in my opinion), and none of the visual effects were cheesy. The soundtrack – again – was a perfectly suited mash of songs you wouldn’t find compiled anywhere else (think Cher; think Frozen; think dubstep). There were plenty of subtle and not-so-subtle fandom jokes, both for the Marvel and DC buffs, and the Taylor Swift die-hards too. I also appreciated the above-average inclusiveness of the characters. Negasonic Teenage Warhead has a girlfriend, the adorable Yukio; Domino has vitiligo; and the female characters were strong, capable and funny – a combination that’s still somewhat new and shiny to Marvel and Hollywood.

 

Deadpool 2 is gory, hilarious, and well worth your attention.

 


Words by Kirsty van der Veer.

Snowpiercer

I must admit, before I walked into the Mercury Cinema, I had already seen the film that was showing that night. In fact, it’s one of my favourite films, and has been for a few years. Snowpiercer was released in 2014 to a limited audience in America and subsequently Australia (due to a belligerent Harvey Weinstein), but it is now on Netflix. It hosts an all-star cast, not the least of them John Hurt, Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton and Jamie Bell, and is an English-language Korean film.

The film utilises a well-worn concept in the 21st century – humanity accidentally destroys the Earth and the majority of itself, and the plot follows the few who survived, on a self-sustaining train that travels the planet and never stops.

Those who live on the train have formed a plutocratic society, the rich living in the first few carriages, dining on sushi, getting high and partying it up, while those at the foot of the train are subjugated to harsh laws, fed a pittance, and barely survive. Enter the film’s protagonist, Curtis, who wants to save his people and stage a rebellion. Chris Evans is almost unrecognisable as Curtis with his dark beard and a beanie, just about as far from Captain America as he could be, and it is one of his best roles to date.

Though with a simple, straightforward plot, Snowpiercer is dark, gritty, and its true accomplishment comes from its astoundingly harsh critique of the human race. The film’s dystopian future strikes close to home, and shows the god complex humanity exhibits over many different facets of our existence. Humans think they can solve global warming, not by using renewable energies or ceasing to emit greenhouse gases, but by dropping a chemical in the atmosphere to lower the Earth’s temperature. Instead they cause an instant global Ice Age and kill almost every living thing. The god complex is also exhibited by the creator of the train, who many refer to as ‘divine’. When Curtis finally reaches him, he finds a man half-mad and believing his own superiority, his own righteousness; so much so that he orchestrated the entire rebellion just to get Curtis to succeed him as the caretaker of the engine. Even Curtis has his own god complex, his own righteous belief that his rebellion, though not the first, deserves to be carried out and succeed.

The film also examines the very nature of humankind, and what we are willing to do to survive. The caretaker, for instance, uses children to replace parts of the engine that wear and break over time. The First Class citizens are happy to starve and murder the “Tail Sectioners” if it means they can party for one more night. Curtis is also not exempt from the flawed desire for survival, and he explains at the end of the film what he was willing to do when the food ran out when they first got on the train. It is this monologue that exemplifies why I feel Evans’ performance is so memorable, and is what makes Snowpiercer truly stand out from all the other dystopian futures embodied in pop culture.

Not only is Snowpiercer a study in humanity, but it is presented in such a realistic way that one can’t help but to wonder: Do we really deserve to survive on this Earth?

 

 


Words by Amelia Hughes.

Four stars.

Thanks to Mercury Cinema.