I really don’t want to lead you the garden path, Aquaman has a lot of flaws. Amber Heard’s acting for one. But also the fact that if it is making a point in its narrative then the ending fails to capitalise on it. Also that the characterisation is weak and inconsistent, I couldn’t tell you who Arthur Curry really is at this point because in any given scene he is whatever the scene requires him to feel. And yet…..and yet God help me I had fun watching this movie. Part of the fun was how bad it was like when a cover a Toto’s Africa played, but part of it was how silly it was and how much it knew that when signifying Italy and burgeoning love they the soundtrack played Roy Orbinson’s Mystery Girl. If Adam McKay does smart dumb comedy then maybe director James Wan is on his way to making smart dumb blockbusters and that’s a good thing.
The plot picks up a little after Justice League, Aquaman goes around the ocean saving the day and beating bad guys up, sculling a beer with his old man and mostly keeping to himself. Then destiny calls and well mostly scenes of exposition interrupted by sudden explosions follows. Thank God they cast big names because I can’t remember the names of the characters just that they were played Willem Dafoe, Dolph Lundgren, Patrick Wilson and Jack the Muss.
Aquaman is a film that goes to a lot of effort in its world building but is less about what and why something happens and more about how. Plate work ensues, we go to Italy, Africa and Maine and I’m not even sure if they even went to a water tank set let alone left the studio to shoot on location there’s so much green screen on display. Yet the film looks gorgeous, if its a cartoon it is a pretty and inventive one unafraid to have big name actors astride sea horses and sharks.
Speaking of the cast Dafoe and Lundgren play as you expect, Lundgren actually plays it so straight and earnest it makes the unique kind of straightforward. Wilson, an actor I greatly admire proves game and doesn’t look awkward as his costumes grow more ridiculous but a film like this really deserves a villain who doesn’t bring earnestness but theatrics. In fact Wilson, who looks like the comic book Arthur Curry and was cast as the villain partly because of this, would have made a good Curry it has to be said. Amber Heard fits into her costume snugly and tries hard, she is stuck in another female sidekick role where she cares more deeply about the plight of the story than the hero and has to prod him into fulfilling his destiny. A thankless role I grant you but Heard fails to bring any nuance and little joy to the role and the chemistry between her and Jason Momoa is non-existent.
Momoa a man who has the body that leaves many swooning and the smarts to have a sense of humour about his image. The character as written is all over the shop but Momoa clearly has a passion for what he is doing. Its exciting to have an actor of islander heritage cast as an aquatic superhero but beyond that, his attitude, comic sensibilities and physique suit the role too. He also gets to show vulnerability here as a man born of two worlds who feels he belongs to neither and mourns a mother he barely knew. Which brings us to Nicole Kidman who may just be the best thing about the movie, she plays it straight too no matter how weird her costume and she brings real pathos to her role as a Queen, warrior, wife and mother. When they say great actors are slumming it in blockbusters they don’t always have reason to mention how the actor can elevate the production, Kidman here does.
As for the production itself, the movie moves fast but is too long. Cut a villain here, an action scene there, slow it down and get to the guts of why these people are doing what they’re doing and you might have a great movie. A final epic end battle has really nothing to do with anybody we care about until late in the game and just feels like it is there because you got to go big and Hollywood-you really don’t. Yet the movie zips along and there’s a few jokes here and there and it certainly doesn’t tax your brain as it proves a feast for your eyes. Good looking people, cool looking worlds, big explosions and lasers, crab monsters and mystic tridents. It never bores and that’s a crime too many blockbusters have been guilty of lately. In fact when people square off and thump their trident down and you hear a big brass reverberating sound you can’t help but smile. We’re not the only ones having fun with this.
This review was written a few months back but has only been recently published due to other concerns. I’m happy to have it published with Buzz Magazine and hope you enjoy reading it here http://buzzmagazine.com.au/justice-league-2/ Some of the staff at Buzz have been through a lot over the past year and to have them and the magazine continue means a lot to me and getting to be a part of that is really great. Justice League‘s belated but now accomplished publishing is a turning point for me showing we’re back on track and gathering steam. Next up should be the last belated review for Best Picture Winner The Shape of Water.
Based out of Victoria, Buzz Magazine was one the longest running street press magazines in Australia being published in print from 1993 to 2010. Some fine writers have worked for Buzz over the years and gone onto successful careers in media since and there is simply no way to measure the contribution the mag made to local music over its print run. With such words and minimal advertising on the website the impression could be taken that Buzz is now semi-retired. Yet the site is quite prolific with new write-ups on a daily basis, the ongoing interest of fans old and new and contributions from some very talented people indeed.
Last year I sought to do a review of every movie I saw in the cinemas. I decided early on for this year I would not repeat that but I will hopefully list all of the films I saw at the movies and then offer some thoughts on what were my favourites. This list always come a little later then the end of the year when some American 2017 releases and Oscar hopefuls have reached Australian audiences. I contributed to an end of year list for X-Press Magazine which you can find here http://xpressmag.com.au/the-x-press-top-20-films-of-2017/ I was pretty lucky this year, I saw free screenings courtesy of my wife, went to preview screenings as a reviewer for Scenestr Magazine and attended for the first time the Bryon Bay Film Festival and the triumphant return of the Brisbane International Film Festival. All up it appears I saw 57 films last year on the big screen and reviewed 27 and counting for various publications. It was a thrill to say the least but plenty were missed, The Florida Project stands out to me as an Oscar contender I would have liked to see along with The Post, Molly’s Game and Call Me By Your Name. Plenty of interesting films have slipped past my radar too like Raw, Happy Death Day, It Comes At Night, Okja, and many more. Most indie and foreign which I am really regretful about but I will get to them in due course hopefully. So as always any list from me is subjective, last year I hadn’t seen Nocturnal Animals and 20th Century Women and I guarantee they would’ve been in that Top 10. None the less it’s always fun to look back and do a summation so here goes. Ratings are based on the classic 4 Star scale as per reviews I read growing up by the great film critic Roger Ebert.
David Stratton: A Cinematic LifeNot Reviewed **1/2
In lesser hands this could get terribly tedious, two middle aged men travelling around eating to their hearts content and occasionally bedding women considerably younger than them. The Trip remains perhaps the best, following comic performers Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon playing themselves in a fictional film made to appear like real life as they bickered on a paid trip through a series of eateries in a regional area. My wife who did not care for that movie has thoroughly enjoyed the follow ups that coincidentally or not coincidentally left the Gothic Northern English countryside for the sunnier sea breezes of Italy and now Spain. For me the sequels are variations on the original classic but here with the pair getting ever slightly older the musings on ageing, legacy and regrets bite a little harder and these are themes I’ve always been fascinated with. In a packed preview screening the ending certainly left an impression. I liked it.
The opening night film at the 2017 Brisbane International Film Festival was the The Square winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes. Written and directed by Ruben Ostlund it tells the story of Christian (Claes Bang) the curator of the X-Royal art museum in Stockholm, Sweden. On his way to work one day he is pulled into a confrontation with a girl being chased by her partner, rallied by another bystander to stand their ground against him. After a little push and shove the man leaves and then the girl. Christian finds he has been pickpocketed in the exchange. To say more about the plot would take away one of the joys about the film but I will say it has themes linked to the new exhibition Christian is promoting called The Square. “The Square is a sanctuary of trust and caring. Within it we all share equal rights and obligations.” The film has a lot to say about ideas of masculinity, art, femininity, classism, race, inflated opinions of art. It has a dark sense of humour, I found it riveting until somewhere close to the finale I did not find the resolution as memorable as the set-up. Yet The Square continues to haunt in a way that few films do. I imagine men of physical courage and carefree attitudes would not find much of interest here but since I’m neither I was fascinated.
The Shape of Water will top many end of year lists. It has rich subtext, is wonderfully constructed in terms of narrative and look, throws in a few surprises and boasts a wonderful cast doing great work. An adult fairytale it delights from start to finish even in the way that it can graphic or dark in humour. I’ve never seen a woman boil on egg on a daily basis either if you know what I mean and I like it. There are a few missteps though for me in terms of filling out back story for maximum effect. The love story is based on ideas, the male romantic lead in a lot of ways remains a mystery and that failed to engage me as much as I hoped the film would. However what it has to say about power dynamics, the boundaries we have to overcome and the power of choices makes this a film to pore over again and again. Not to mention the cinematic beauty of it. “Of course themes and allegories are great but they don’t really matter if you can’t engage the audience. Screenwriters del Toro and Vanessa Taylor craft an interesting romance between two creatures who never speak a word to each other. One of them risks an awful lot faster than expected with very little to motivate them except how the other makes them feel. While that might be difficult to believe completely, the writers have argued is there anything more romantic than that mindset?“.
Well as always thank you for reading and I encourage you to mention in the comments your favourite films of the year and why. As Oscar nears it’s interesting to note how many of the Ten are not in contention at that ceremony. Of those that are, like last year I found this video about them from Screen Junkies very amusing.