BLACK PANTHER REVIEW AVAILABLE AT BUZZ MAGAZINE

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It’s been a long time coming but I’ve finally done a review for Black Panther which has been kindly published by Buzz Magazine where  a lot of my reviews of blockbusters get published. The editor has been through a lot in the past year and I am happy to hear that Buzz magazine will be continuing due in part to his strength and resilience for which I’m grateful. There’s a couple of other reviews I did for Buzz a few months back that hopefully will be up on the site in the coming days. I hope you enjoy. You can check out the Black Panther review here http://buzzmagazine.com.au/black-panther/

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.

-Lloyd Marken

 

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MY FAVOURITE FILMS OF 2017

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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 Life Not Reviewed **1/2

Kong: Skull Island Published 15MAR17 18 Likes – 72 Views **1/2

The Dancer Not Reviewed **1/2

The Lego Batman Movie Not Reviewed ***

The Fate of the Furious Published at Scenestr Magazine 12APR17 ***

Get Out Not Reviewed ***

Berlin Syndrome Published at HEAVY Magazine 02MAY17 ***1/2

Going in Style Not Reviewed **1/2

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Published at Buzz Magazine 24MAY17 **1/2

Alien: Convenant Published 22MAY17 15 Likes – 46 Views **1/2

The Mummy Not Reviewed *1/2

Baby Driver Not Reviewed **1/2

Despicable Me 3 Not Reviewed **

Atomic Blonde Published at Buzz Magazine 28JUL17 ***

The War for the Planet of the Apes Not Reviewed ***

The Dark Tower Not Reviewed **

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Published at Scenestr Magazine 10AUG17 ***

Fun Mom Dinner Not Reviewed 1/2

The Party Not Reviewed **

Citizen Jane Not Reviewed **1/2

That’s Not Me Not Reviewed **

The Way Station Not Reviewed ***

Paris Can Wait Not Reviewed **1/2

The Mountain Between Us Not Reviewed **1/2

Victoria and Abdul Not Reviewed **1/2

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Published at Scenestr Magazine 21SEP17 **1/2

Thor: Ragnarok Published 06NOV17 10 Likes – 40 Views ***

Bad Moms 2 Published at Scenestr Magazine 02NOV17 ***

You’re Killing Me Susana Published at Scenestr Magazine 20NOV17 ***

Murder on the Orient Express Published at HEAVY Magazine 22NOV17 ***

Justice League Published at Buzz Magazine 17JUL18 **1/2

Wonder Wheel Published at Scenestr Magazine 07DEC17 ***

Goodbye Christopher Robin Not Reviewed **1/2

Coco Published 10JAN18 13 Likes – 30 Views ***

IT Not Reviewed ***

Lady Bird Published at Heavy Magazine 25JAN18 ***

The Disaster Artist Not Reviewed ***

 

Honourable Mentions

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The Trip To Spain Not Reviewed ***

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.

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The Last Jedi Published at Buzz Magazine 06FEB18 ***

Far from a perfect film I have a suspicion this will be a pivotal film for the franchise and fans growing up with the series now. There are pacing problems, unfocussed plot lines, and issues with the depiction of Lue Skywalker but overall there were a lot of great moments as well. Here’s hoping we can get a satisfying trilogy capper in two years. “Some fans will cite it as a watershed moment in the franchise; others will hang their heads and never forgive for some of what happens here. The rest of us will probably feel torn, this is not the greatest movie in the series but it may be an important one.

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Australia Day Published at Scenestr Magazine 04SEP17 ***1/2

It could be bias on my part, Australia Day was shot in my home town, I’ve read reviews that did not find it as praiseworthy as I did. Yet I keep thinking back on scenes that drew me in, the way the stories played off each other. Set over one day, yeah that day, and following a variety of characters who differ in race, age and which side of the law they operate on the climax I found deeply satisfying. Touching on themes of community and family and what happens when both break down I still highly recommend this film. “The anchor of the film is the performance of Bryan Brown who is neither a straight forward hero nor a man who can sit idly by as terrible things are done in the world. In a film dealing with the cost of parents who aren’t there, he effectively becomes a guardian to this young girl Lan Chang who, while barely understanding a word of his English, sizes up that this is a good man.

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Darkest Hour Published at Heavy Magazine 15FEB18 ***1/2

Darkest Hour is a good film bolstered by a great performance that encapsulates an extraordinary individual at the height of their powers and responsibilities. Gary Oldman shines with a different yet familiar take on the icon and while one see the strings of manipulation being tugged by the filmmakers this remains a stirring take on a pivotal moment in history. “Director Joe Wright and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel delight with some shots whether it is sunlight shining through a window onto Ben Mendelsohn’s King George that make him appear for a second like the real face that adorned all that currency once upon a time. Or the way that a bombed landscape seamlessly transitions into the dead eye of a corpse. The devastation of war rote large in the smallest measure of life lost.

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Wonder Woman Published at Buzz Magazine 13JUN17 ***

If the this was about the ten best characters of last year, Wonder Woman would win hands down. After dicking around with the nobility of Superman for the past decade, Patty Jenkins showed Warner Bros how to tap into what made their DC characters so likeable rather than running away from it. The finale is too CGI heavy, its jarring to see the battlefields of World War One used as a playground for a comic book movie and the villains are underwritten but Wonder Woman is a triumph on many more levels. The first section of the film shows no men (no plus size ladies either but that’s a discussion for another time) and by not trumpeting it-the film makes a very strong point. Yet beyond all the firsts that this film achieved is a great story well told. There’s fantastic chemistry between Gal Gadot and Chris Pine in an elegant romance and partnership (he’s the not quite as capable but still loyal sidekick), fine comic relief from Lucy Davis as Etta Candy, several tones deftly handled and Gadot not only stepping up to the plate as the awesome Wonder Woman but also underplaying as the straight person in the comic English scenes. Some of the action sequences are first rate too, excitingly shot and well choreographed. These things are so hard to get right and such a joy to see in a blockbuster. Even with the CGI tell me you don’t care when that plane pulls into the sky at the end?”Wonder Woman all our hopes depend on you and the magic that you do” or so the song goes. The Amazonian has not let us down even if her first solo big screen outing is not without flaws. The success of Wonder Woman paves the way for more big budget comic book films with a female protagonist, more blockbusters helmed by female directors and creates anticipation for more DC film adaptations and it does all of this by following one simple rule – make a good movie.

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Paddington 2 Published 12JAN18 11 Likes 30 Views ***1/2

Paddington 2 is like the preceding film, charming in every sense of the meaning of that word. A family film in the classic sense of the word it wears it’s heart on it’s sleeve and wins you over with its goodness. Moving, funny and very English the only thing I’d argue is maybe a few more guffaws would’ve been in order. “Maybe I rarely laughed out loud but I smiled. I smiled the kind of smile you only smile when you’ve been absolutely charmed and I was charmed by that film and more importantly by that little Peruvian bear. He always looks CGI but there’s fantastic design work from the animators to make you fall in love with this bear backed up by Ben Whishaw’s voice work and spirit of Michael Bond’s books. Paddington is always polite, always has his heart in the right place and always tries his best and believes in the better nature of people unless they invoke a good hard stare.

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Film Stars Don’t Die In LiverpoolPublished At X-Press Magazine 01MAR18  ***1/2

More than just an observant and honest story about a May-December romance, Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool displays a great sense of time and place and how they inform our personal choices and our convictions. It won’t be for everyone, it’s not really a fun film but it is a great film about this particular story that I have often reflected upon in the days since seeing it. “It also has a lot to say about routine and principals and how they guide your decisions. In the film’s most heartbreaking scene, a father tells his son what they’re going to do and you know the only wisdom he is relying on comes from these types of principles. Neither can be sure that it is the right thing to do but it is the “right” thing to do and so they do it.

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The Square Not Reviewed ***1/2

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.

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Their Finest Published at Heavy Magazine 25APR17 ***1/2

Their Finest might have slipped under a lot of people’s radar but it is a gem of movie. Meta, moving, funny with a buttoned down performance from the talented Gemma Arterton. I’ve read some dismiss it as clichéd and for the grey haired mob. Allow me to offer a well thought out counter argument – fuck them. “Bombs drop on London, the war threatens to derail the film and the very spirit of resistance these intrepid British storytellers seek to inspire in the local populace starts to shine through within their own actions. Some critics have labelled Their Finest a callback to an older era of films suggesting to take your Gran to see it. It is true it is set during 1940 and has comforting truths long established about love and the human spirit. The kind of truths, that don’t go out of fashion if you have a beating heart.

I, Tonya Published at Scenestr Magazine 24JAN18 ***1/2

Recently watching a documentary on Tonya Harding I noticed a few things the documentary did well that the film did not and vice versa. We don’t get Nancy Kerrigan’s story in I, Tonya and we don’t get friends musing on the possible inner workings of Tonya’s mind. What we do get is one helluva thrill ride jam packed with great performances and a kinetic energy that drives the plot. We are moved by individual scenes several times and fascinated by what is going on screen. But we never know what the truth is, how can we be engaged by these people if we don’t know which depiction of what happened is true. That central conceit of the film creates a distance between the audience and the story and only the work of Margot Robbie, Alison Janney and the under-rated Sebastian Stan shrink that distance. “Tonya Harding became a villain perhaps not without reason, but also out of narrative convenience, and the script by Steven Rogers seems to ask who was Tonya Harding truly and was she really a villain. The film is also not interested in offering a definitive answer, since it is not interested in giving a definitive account of what happened. Rogers noticed differing stories in interviews from Harding and former husband Jeff Gillooly, and decided that contradiction would be part of the film’s storyline.

 

THE TEN

 

 

10. Thee Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Published at Heavy Magazine 08JAN18 ***1/2

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri boasts another great performance from Frances McDormand in a film that fails to play to any conventional outcome. McDormand plays a mother who lost her daughter and is dealing with her grief. A wonderful haunting tale, my only complaint is I never quite buy the motivation of one character’s decision but it proves a major catalyst for the plot that unfolds. It may not be an enjoyable film but it is unforgettable one. “Three Billboards though thinks an awful lot about that daughter and a million others who disappeared or were found dead one morning. Their murderers never discovered, never brought to justice. Their violence acts unanswered, stewing away in those left behind. Not just murders either, throughout the film there is anger displayed for a lot of things whether it be long-term prognosis from a Doctor, a date being embarrassed to be seen with you, or in most cases just the way someone who knows you really well can say something that hurts you and how much you can’t let that go unanswered. This is a film about how violence circles back around, the power of anger, the pain of regret but also about the strength of kindness and the delicacy of tolerance.

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9. Spider-Man: Homecoming Published at Buzz Magazine 28JUL17 ***1/2

How do you make the sixth Spider-Man movie since 2002 interesting? Well instead of telling the story everybody has already seen you tell the story that hasn’t been told before. That of Peter Parker the high schooler. This is a film that has so much going for it, the action escalates in scale but never stops being about real human figures straining and getting hit. There was a wonderful ensemble of side characters who amuse and delight. There’s great comedy and Easter Eggs regarding the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. Most importantly the comic book action is focussed on themes and plights that everybody can relate to. If I have one complaint is that I would have preferred to have seen Tony Stark trying to be a good mentor. His actions and motivations here are hypocritical obviously in service to not having him take up too much screen time. In light of the comedic and visual delights of Guardians 2 and Thor: Ragnarok, the gravitas of Hugh Jackman’s exit in Logan and the ground breaking joy of Wonder Woman – it’s easy for another Spider-Man movie to get lost in the shuffle but this is a great comic book movie. We’re not always so lucky. “Peter Parker may have been in high school in earlier films but here he is a high schooler and a lot of the story revolves around the challenges you navigate in that environment rather than facing down crooks as a masked crusader. This is John Hughes by way of Marvel and for the most part it proves fresh and engaging as a result. After six films this is Spider-Man as you’ve never seen him before and as you always should have.

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8. The Shape of Water Being Edited ***1/2

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?“.

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7. Phantom Thread Published at Heavy Magazine 25FEB18 ***1/2

A mesmerising film that parodies adult relationships with dark humour and relentless suspense. We don’t know where this is headed but we’re constantly fascinated by these people and their disgraceful behaviour. Where I was excited to see Lady Bird and The Shape of Water to see if they would top this list, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the meticulously constructed film from director Paul Thomas Anderson. Bravo to Daniel Day-Lewis on another great performance with his two co-stars Lesley Manville and Vicky Krieps delivering just as much. “Artists can be sensitive and emotionally volatile but they’re only allowed to indulge this if they are successful. Into this life comes the latest muse/victim/lover in the form of a young French woman who was working as a waitress. There is not one person in this movie that mainstream audiences will identify as behaving normally or in a way that is healthy for relationships. That is one of the film’s delights, the other is if you think the story is going to play out one way or another-the movie has other ideas.

6. Logan Published at Scenestr Magazine 09MAR17 ***1/2

Logan was a breath of fresh air to a competent but stale genre in the way that Deadpool was the year before but for completely different reasons. A stand alone story with stakes that were final, it took risks in telling a story that was sad and beautiful about the circle of life, the power of family and the struggle of ageing. There was plenty of action but there was also moments that were heartfelt and real. Hugh Jackman struggled 17 years to get Wolverine just right and while I wish we’d gotten films more worthy of his performance we got the one that counted. I’m not sure if the villains could’ve been stronger or that the third act loses some focus but it remains one of the best comic book films I saw this year if not the best. “Anybody who has ever cared for an ailing loved one or reconnected with an absent parent may be surprised to see moments of familiarity in this comic book movie but will be no less moved. ‘Deadpool’ last year appeared like a breath of fresh air with meta humour and an anarchic attitude. 20th Century Fox now releases a different type of superhero movie again on the other end of the emotional scale but no less anarchic, an elegiac moving Western set in the future.

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5. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Published at Buzz Magazine 05MAY17 ***1/2

It goes back and forth for me what was the best comic book movie of the past year – Guardians 2 or Logan? Expectations were high for this one following the original, not as clean and slick as that one, this maybe the better film due to a resolve to have more emotional payoffs. A few small things might get missed the first time through which add a lot to character arcs when noticed upon second viewing. Still this universe and characters remain as charming as ever and the pressure is on for the trilogy capper now from director James Gunn. “Sometimes Marvel Studio films are criticized for all having the same look, with their director’s visions compromised to fit within the shared cinematic universe but Gunn’s Guardians films remain unique and true to his sensibilities. They’re funny, occasionally gross and as Cat Steven’s Father and Son plays in a gloriously lit up galaxy far, far away they are moving – oh so moving. This is one of the year’s best.

4. The Go-Betweens: Right Here Published at Scenestr Magazine 10OCT17 ****

The Go-Betweens were musicians’ musicians not rock stars and there is a price to be paid for never quite breaking through. There is a price to be paid in any fellowship but what you achieve hopefully endures. This is wonderful re-telling of the lifetime of a band through a nostalgiac era of music with a romantic notion of this particular type of band. More evocatively it is old friends looking back on the time of their lives with regret, hurt, joy and great poignancy. It was a joy to watch from beginning to end, I look forward to what director Kriv Stenders (Australia Day, Red Dog) does next. “The band ended abruptly, and like its trailer the film does too. Life too can end abruptly and it feels that director Kriv Stenders is articulating this on purpose. Life is fleeting, memory does play tricks, some things don’t need to get dug up and some connections can’t be reforged again. Some things endure because they were real and they meant something and in that sense, The Go-Betweens now have a documentary that reflects the appeal of their music very well.

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3. Dunkirk Published at Heavy Magazine 02AUG17 ****

Christopher Nolan’s war film was not to everybody’s liking, there were things present that usually I would criticise in this film but defend with this one. For most people the most compelling part is the story of Mark Rylance’s character because it is the closest to a fully formed narrative and fleshed out character. To me the themes of courage and choices and how people perceive reality and need stories resonated. As a spectacle I was grateful to see money well spent on creating and using real scale. As an experience I was wrapped up in the moment and excited about the bringing together of three separate narratives. As a message I was touched by Nolan’s celebration of gallantry and acknowledgement of the chaos and fear which gives such heroism its impact. In that way it was an unabashed emotional film despite it’s meticulously put together structure. It is a great film, maybe Nolan’s best. “In the air Tom Hardy plays a RAF fighter pilot providing air cover for the ships against the Luftwaffe’s superior numbers, concerned as much with his fuel gauge as he is with the enemy knowing that one more minute over France could save countless lives. Then there’s Mark Rylance, a simple fisherman who with his young son and another boy has set off to make a difference by crossing the English Channel to pick up as many soldiers as he can in his humble boat. The closer they get to war the more foolhardy his decision seems and the more admirable.

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2. Blade Runner 2049 Published at Buzz Magazine 22JAN18 ****

Blade Runner 2049 is the reason we go to the cinema. Beautiful, epic and all in service to a story with ideas and passion. This is the kind of blockbuster that should be being made and all the more reason to be sad about its box office. However I suspect many will grow to discover it on blu-rays and streaming. I was blown up by the cast which included 4 women at its centre playing a diverse array of characters (Ana De Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Mackenzie Davis & Robin Wright), Harrison Ford playing a man with many regrets and hurt and Ryan Gosling in an understated yet emotional performance. The look and sound of the film expands from the original but stands on its own using new technology. This is a form ultimately about relationships and what we can do to forge real ones despite the advent of technology. “She prompts him to do things, intervenes against others when he is not present and makes her own decisions. Yet all of this comes from coding responding to interactions with him. Does that mean it’s not real or is that any different from the way human are biologically designed? There is a scene later in the film that could provide the answer and it is heartbreaking, Ana De Armas plays so many notes effortlessly and this should prove a break-out role for her.

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1. In This Corner of the World Published at FilmInk Magazine 24NOV17 ****

The Number One Choice has surprised again with a film that I saw earlier in the year, wasn’t widely seen by others and did not get unseated by the Oscar frontrunners. Set in the lead-up to and through out World War II we follow one young woman’s journey through these events from the Japanese home front. An anime with beautiful images, striking sequences and great attention to historical detail. This is a film that reckons with war and the horrors of it but also the strength of people, the hope of peace and the enduring power of family and love. I was deeply moved by this film, it is for me the best film of the year. “Perhaps the greatest courage is shown at the end when survivors slowly go on, day by day. What has been lost can never be regained but those of us who are alive, have to go on living. And maybe in the living, one day there will be a world worth living in, if not for us then for the next generation.

 

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.

-Lloyd Marken

LADY BIRD REVIEW AVAILABLE AT HEAVY

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A few months back Dan Murrell at Screen Junkies mentioned he’d just seen a little film called Lady Bird, a coming age tale about a teenage girl growing up in Sacramento directed by Greta Gerwig. I enjoyed Frances Ha and pay attention to Dan Murrell when he says a movie is good and he was quite taken with this one. It’s been a long wait for the film to reach Australian shores and now you can read my review over at Heavy Magazine here https://heavymag.com.au/film-review-lady-bird/ This is a thoughtful well made film crafted with a lot of care. Little things add up to a vibrant big picture. I can’t say it was my favourite film of the year though Dan.

Heavy is an independent magazine and website that is all about the music and specifically heavy music and supporting the Australian music scene in general. Fortunately for me they do cover film as well and I have been fortunate to have a few things published there.

-Lloyd Marken

 

MY FAVOURITE FILMS OF 2016

In the past 14 months if ticket stubs and memory is to be believed I saw 50 films in a cinema. 7 of them were released in 2015 for that year’s Oscar race even if I came to see them in Australia cinemas in early 2016; they were Youth, Steve Jobs, Spotlight, The Force Awakens, The Big Short, The Hateful Eight and Brooklyn. There were a handful films I saw more than once and they were mostly blockbusters Batman Vs. Superman, Rogue One and with far more enthusiasm Deadpool and after seeing The Force Awakens twice in December 2015 I went back for third, fourth and fifth helpings. There’s only one other film I’ve seen five times at the movies and back then I had a lot more diverse social circle. Whatever the flaws of Star War 7 and Deadpool there was real love and affection that drove me back to them to watch rather than waiting months for release on some other platform.

I didn’t see the well-received Australian made Hacksaw Ridge directed by Mel Gibson whose personal faults have never pushed me away from his work – I look forward to seeing his latest effort but weekend after weekend I shook my head and made a different choice or stayed at home. Hell or High Water is a different story, I wanted to see it but by the time I suspected it must have hit our shores I found out I had missed the boat by a couple of months when I was very busy with work. My best friend has the best tastes in popular culture and has led me to many a great film I would have ignored. He’s pointed out Your Name is one to see and fellow bloggers have also praised it. I hope to find out for myself soon. I am interested too in the collaboration of Isabelle Huppert and Paul Verhoeven with the film Elle. I’ve barely seen any foreign films and certainly none of the well regarded ones this year. Like Room from last year I’m interested in Manchester by the Sea but just don’t feel like seeing a movie that will make me more depressed at the moment.

So it seems silly to really sit here and write a list of my Favourite Films for the year. Yet I found it kind of interesting to see I’d written a review on my site of every film I’d seen in the cinema and two that were original content for Netflix. Films I hadn’t seen at the movies but were 2016 releases like Triple 9, Zootopia and The Secret Lives of Pets didn’t encroach on a hypothetical top 10 so why not rank them.

One final disclaimer, these are not the 10 best but my favourite films from the year. Yes I am trying to grade them on artistic merit but films that made me feel more are going to see their stocks rise and how I feel about them is going to link back to what appeals to me personally I’m afraid. In a way it’s easier to pick a Top 5 than a Top 10 because of this.

The 43 films were as follows and I’ll even belatedly throw in a star rating based off Ebert’s 4 Star system.

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The Founder January 18th 18 Likes 393 Views ***

 

Hunt for the Wilderpeople Published August 11th 24 Likes 99 Views ****

Eye in the Sky Published March 29th 8 Likes 96 Views ****

Bad Moms Published October 11th 14 Likes 66 Views ***

Deadpool Published March 17th 6 Likes 61 Views ****

Star Trek: Beyond Published August 20th 14 Likes 56 Views **1/2

Batman vs. Superman Published April 1st 7 Likes 56 Views ***

Sully Published September 27th 13 Likes 55 Views ***1/2

Suicide Squad Published August 26th 15 Likes 53 Views **1/2

 

Arrival Published February 8th 15 Likes 49 Views ***1/2

The Girl on the Train Published February 3rd 13 Likes 47 Views ***

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Published September 6th 12 Likes 47 Views ***

Jackie Published February 10th 12 Likes 46 Views ***1/2

Finding Dory Published August 20th 10 Likes 44 Views ***

Moonlight Published February 12th 15 Likes 42 Views ***1/2

La La Land Published February 2nd 13 Likes 42 Views ***1/2

Love and Friendship Published August 29th 14 Likes 41 Views ***

Ghostbusters (2016) Published August 20th 10 Likes 41 Views **

 

Fences Published February 18th 17 Likes 39 Views ***1/2

The Siege at Jadotville Published February 13th 14 Likes 39 Views ***

The Nice Guys Published August 10th 11 Likes 39 Views ***1/2

Eddie the Eagle Published April 23rd 7 Likes 39 Views ***

Hail, Caesar! Published April 20th 11 Likes 35 Views ***1/2

Office Christmas Party Published February 17th 10 Likes 34 Views **

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Published September 30th 14 Likes 34 Views ***

Jason Bourne Published August 25th 9 Likes 33 Views **1/2

Central Intelligence Published August 14th 14 Likes 32 Views **1/2

Captain America: Civil War Published May 27th 7 Likes 30 Views ***1/2

 

The Accountant Published February 9th 17 Likes 28 Views ***

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back Published January 18th 13 Likes 25 Views **1/2

Alice Through the Looking Glass Published August 10th 12 Likes 24 Views **1/2

Zoolander No. 2 Published March 29th 2 Likes 24 Views **

Blair Witch Published January 18th 9 Likes 22 Views ***

X-Men Apocalypse Published September 29th 11 Likes 21 Views ***

The Boss Published April 22nd 4 Likes 21 Views **1/2

The Huntsman: Winter’s War April 21st 7 Likes 21 Views ***

Doctor Strange Published January 18th 11 Likes 20 Views ***

Sausage Party September 30th 9 Likes 20 Views **1/2

 

Rogue One Published January 13th 11 Likes 18 Views ***

Bridget Jones’s Baby Published January 18th 11 Likes 17 Views **1/2

Kung-Fu Panda 3 Published February 17th 7 Likes 13 Views **1/2

 

Hidden Figures ***1/2 Published at http://scenestr.com.au/news/movies-and-tv/hidden-figures-review-20170223

 

Out of them I’ll go into a bit more details about some that deserve an Honourable Mention and those that are my 10 favourite films of 2016 – for now.

 

Honourable Mentions

 

Image result for bad moms gifsBad Moms Published October 11th 14 Likes – 66 Views ***

The best popular mainstream gross out comedy of the year and centred around motherhood no less. After years of watching guys do it, it’s nice to see the girls proving they can be as irresponsible, self-centred and crazy as the boys. “Kunis, Bell and Hahn share a nice chemistry in this film with Kunis holding it all together as the lead, Bell doing some inspired physical comedy and Hahn stealing the show by doing whatever the hell she wants. A late scene where she explains motherhood to Kunis gives the film heart and a message. All the best gross out comedies have these two qualities. There’s been a few comedies released this year, none of them had the audience laughing as much as Bad Moms. Do yourself a favour.

 

Image result for siege at jadotvilleThe Siege at Jadotville Published February 13th 14 Likes – 39 Views ***

A company of Irish soldiers faced an onslaught of a far superior force in war torn Congo in 1961. Their heroics have been made into a film sparing no expense from Netflix. Knowing this really happened and what they received upon their return gives this movie depth and heart. “The Siege at Jadotville is a real throwback to old war movies that your Dad loved to watch on a Sunday. Modern production values are there and a dry Irish sense of humour bleeds through every now and again but the cast are mostly types not people, the soldier with glasses, the sniper (Sam Keeley as Billy Ready), the gruff old Sergeant (Jason O’Mara as Company Sergeant Jack Prendergast). Their emotive faces tell enough and Jamie Dornan acquits himself well as Commandant Pat Quinlan who as a person gets the most rounded out beside the exasperating political figures.

 

Eddie the Eagle Published April 23rd 7 Likes – 39 Views ***

Eddie the Eagle is cookie cutting filmmaking about sports and underdogs and yet it charms the hell out of you just like its hero. Eddie the Eagle was a very special underdog indeed and Taron Egerton gives a wonderful performance while Hugh Jackman charms as a gruff coach who didn’t exist in real life. “Eddie the Eagle implausibly showed up at the 1988 Winter Olympics as Britain’s sole Ski Jump competitor. His performance was so significantly behind the second last place getter that a new rule was instituted making it more difficult to place in the sport for the Olympics. There are those to this day who were embarrassed that he was there and confounded by his popularity. That’s because they don’t know what it’s like on that factory floor or in that office cubicle. Eddie had dreamed the impossible dream and we like dreamers. We need them, when they achieve something they keep our dreams alive. They make anything possible, thank you Eddie.

 

Batman vs. Superman Published April 1st 7 Likes – 56 Views ***

Both this blockbuster and Rogue One were flawed beyond belief but neither was boring and in light of the growing conveyor belt sameness of Marvel’s work and other disappointing blockbusters for the year I can’t help but reflect that the good stuff in these films should be recognised. Zack Snyder has created a dark downbeat nonsensical universe in his DC films which has completely missed the point of Superman as a hero. However Batman and Alfred Pennyworth yet again star on the big screen and play a new variation of their characters and relationship with humour, charm and action. The best fight scene with Batman ever put on screen is in this movie, it just doesn’t feature Superman. The hypocrisy of the ‘heroes’ actions and the comical motivations deflate the film but this is still a vision that is unique and oddly compelling. “Yet when he [Christopher Reeve as Superman] said “I never lie.” you not only believed it but you believed in the possibility and rightness of such a thing. He felt pain being belted into a building and outright desperation whenever Lois was threatened. Yet he was inherently good and awesome as a symbol too. Cavill strutting into the Senate hearing halfway through this film could’ve been an opportunity for Superman to say something but alas…

 

Related imageRogue One Published January 13th 11 Likes – 18 Views ***

Rogue One has a lot of good ideas that shed new light on the Rebel Alliance and the Empire from the original Star Wars. The ideas for all the characters are interesting too but barring the comic relief of Alan Tudyk as K-2SO they never become too emotionally involving. The technical proficiency of the action and special effects though shine throughout and the third act purely on a spectacle level maybe the most epic and satisfying of the year. “We are told who they are rather than shown half the time and when we are, we just don’t care. The plot is always moving from planet to planet and set piece to set piece that the characters themselves barely get a chance to interact and grow relationships. We know they are inherently good people and we do want them to succeed but we are not scared for their safety and that is a huge misgiving for this type of film.

 

Image result for the girl on the trainThe Girl on the Train Published February 3rd 13 Likes – 47 Views ***

A sexy thriller (seriously there’s like at least 4 or 5 sex scenes and they’re all sexy), that flirts with gender politics and has a mandatory neat twist. Elevated by the cast, none shines better than Emily Blunt who is on fine form here. “The film works strongest when dealing with perspective and prejudice, why do the other women stare at Megan in yoga class. Are they threatened by her beauty or do they know something about her character? Is she highly sexual or do others like to imagine so? Is she a victim, a manipulator or something more sinister?  The answer is of course the same it has always been, the same it has been for most men and women since time immemorial. She is not one thing or the other.

 

wtf tina fey whiskey tango foxtrot kim barker robert carlockWhiskey Tango Foxtrot Published September 6th 12 Likes – 47 Views ***

I sent an application to the United Nations once saying I wanted to go work in Afghanistan. I never got a reply. Watching Whiskey Tango Foxtrot reminded me of a time and place I wished I’d found myself a part of even if I should have done a lot more than wish if that’s what I really wanted. When the call came for journalist Kim Barker she answered it and the resulting film about Kim Baker delights as a workplace war comedy starring the talented Tina Fey and allowing Margot Robbie and Christopher Abbott to shine in supporting roles. “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot tells another story from the War on Terror, it invites us to laugh and then maybe to think but mostly the coda for the film is to live your life to the full, embrace the challenges, get through them and then move on and live your life the best you can now. Like in war. Operation Enduring Freedom ended on the 31st December 2014. US Troops remaining in Afghanistan serve as part of the ongoing Operation Sentinel’s Freedom.

 

Image result for jackie movieJackie Published February 10th 12 Likes – 46 Views ***1/2

Natalie Portman’s performance is on key throughout this challenging film which breaks down how a lot of the Kennedy myth was put together but may only truly be enjoyed by those who believe in the power of it for better or worse. A haunting moody piece about grief and how we react to it, the film is also slow paced at times but can’t be faulted for demanding full attention from its audience. “Grief stricken at the loss of a husband who cheated on her, cool and collected at times and at others almost hysterical certain facts long known but never pondered come forward. She held her husbands blasted apart head in her lap all the way to the hospital. What the hell does that do to someone? Less than a week later she marched through Washington with world leaders despite all kinds of security concerns that an assassin could target them again. She took her kids to the coffin and she trained her son to salute it with the whole world watching. Why was ensuring President Kennedy’s legacy so important in helping her grief for an imperfect man that she loved?

 

Related imageMoonlight Published February 12th 15 Likes – 42 Views ***1/2

Split into three distinct moments in one young man’s life, Moonlight shows clearly what legacy the action of loved ones can have on a child’s development. Despite the cost of bullying and betrayal that Chiron endures there is hope at the end of this story. Hope for his life is just beginning. “Left to fend for himself, a drug dealer named Juan notices him one day and befriends him. Why he feels compelled to do this is only hinted at but he is played by Mahershala  Ali whose performance looms over the rest of the film. He is the only positive male figure the boy nicknamed Little will ever have teaching him how to swim in one beautiful scene of the boy being cradled in his arms amongst the waves. This is a hard man who shows this boy nothing but gentleness, the most obvious answer to why is he immediately recognised something in Little of himself and wants to protect the innocence he has lost but this man is a criminal and there are limits to what he can do. Perhaps we’re all protective of children and their fragility, there is a scene where Chiron asks what a certain word his mother called him means and it kind of breaks your heart.

 

Image result for lala landLa La Land Published February 2nd 13 Likes – 42 Views ***1/2

Arguably the best looking film of the year, I wonder how much came from digital enhancement. With two winning lead performances from Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone who share fantastic chemistry the film delights with big musical numbers that make the best use of modern technology. Ambitiously adding subterfuge to his own movie writer/director Damien Chazelle also offers up a film about artistic ambition and the struggles that come with daring to dream. The ending was not expected but is powerful and heartbreaking. Suckers for perfect happy endings beware but hopefully at the very least this encourages Hollywood to make more musicals and one with the modern possibilities engaged here. “The film opens up on the disused freeway ramp where parts of Speed were shot with an impromptu dance number by many stuck in LA traffic with a one take tracking shot over several vehicles and choreographed dancers. It’s kinda awesome but has little to do with what the rest of the film will be about.

 

THE TEN

 

10. Captain America: Civil War Published May 27th 7 Likes – 30 Views ***1/2

When you’re the big dog, people like to kick you if they smell opportunity and Marvel have become so successful it’s tempting to take for granted what they do except nobody else seems to be doing it nearly as well. There are missed opportunities, there’s no distinct visual style here and we suspect a little too easily that everything is going to be alright no matter what the stakes. Yet these guys always bring it back to the characters and never more so than here. Everything Captain America does here is for a childhood friend who he served together with in war and thought was long dead. Tony Stark well you’ll have to see the film but this plays off eight years of world building throughout the franchise and nobody else is doing that with their franchises. They lack the patience and they lack the heart. Plus that airport scene.”Which is fine because the film is not really about the Sokovia Accords, it is about Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and what lengths Steve Rogers will go to protect his friend and fellow veteran while at the same time Tony Stark is trying to protect the Avengers as best he can. Stark and Rogers have always been at odds with their contrasting personalities and world view points. There is an extra layer there in the sense that Rogers is partially a creation of Howard Stark’s and a friend of Tony’s Dad. He’s perversely both father figure and rival son for Stark Senior’s approval. The ground work for this had been laid previously and in this film finally gets paid off.

aliens scifi spaceship arrival9. Arrival Published February 8th 15 Likes – 49 Views ***1/2

Arrival is a thoughtful blockbuster about the need for us to communicate better with each other and with the outside world. A film that plays with the concepts of time as it tells a simple universal story of hope, fear, love and loss. Oh yeah there’s aliens in it too. “It feels right and real that contacts with aliens would be set up in a tent city with dimly lit rooms and the lime green shading of a hospital full of tired middle aged bureaucrats questioning each other’s ideas on a regular basis. The aliens themselves are always seen with a sense of wonder (their design is original and interesting too), how to get to them starts off in a simple fashion but is suitably otherworldly and unnerving.

Image result for fences movie8. Fences Published February 18th 17 Likes – 39 Views ***1/2

This is a hard movie to watch at times but it always feels real even if set bound like the stage play it originally was. There are rich themes about mortality, legacy, fathers and sons, husbands and wives, infidelity and the history of race in America. The central character is hard to watch at times, hard to understand, hard to forgive and we share in that challenge as audience members with the characters around him who are part of his life. This is writing and performing of the highest level and Denzel is so good as Troy Maxson but it is Viola Davis in one powerful moment articulating the limits and trials and hopes and dreams of 1950s housewives everywhere that is devastatingly beautiful and painful that makes this film such a must see. “As the film goes on Maxson inhabits scenes he‘s not even in, after watching him with his family throughout we grow to feel some of their emotions. As he winds up for another lecture we shake our heads at the repetition and the lack of self-awareness and yet when he’s gone we feel the lack of his presence as keenly as the family does. We understand perhaps that for better or worse we are who are fathers made us and whether they did us proud or said they loved us we want to make them proud and we do love them.

7. Hail, Caesar! Published April 20th 11 Likes – 35 Views ***1/2

A movie for people who love the movies made by people who love movies too. Set in 1950s America there are parallels to today’s world, call-backs to the type of films old Hollywood produced and that wonderful intelligent witty dialogue that we’ve come to expect from the Coen brothers. Plus look out for Alden Ehrenreich who steals the show and whose star is on the rise. As a film buff I loved it. ” Yet this is not a film that exclusively looks back with rose tinted glasses, the Red menace of the Cold War evokes the same fear that ISIS does now, there is a Latino starlet Carlotta Valdez (Veronica Osorio) hoping for the same opportunities afforded her white co-stars, this is the era of McCarthy which may remind us a little that we now tear ourselves apart with political tribalism and humming in the background when Hollywood is in the final bloom of its Golden Age is the advent of stars demanding more and television only a few years away threatening the revenue streams that were taken for granted.

6. The Nice Guys Published August 10th 11 Likes – 39 Views ***1/2

What a year for Ryan Gosling, in La La Land he sang and danced and proved Emma Stone and him should make another five films together. Nominated for an Academy Award for La La Land, his best performance this year gone is as a washed up Private Investigator, flawed father and comic relief to tough guy Russell Crowe. He is fearless in this film at being funny and get the word out because we need more movies like this. A tough fun throwback to the period it is set in of 1970s film noir by writer/director Shane Black. “Crowe with his impish smile and easy charm points to possibilities, the film’s best scene maybe in a park late at night with Healy talking to the younger Ms. March. She tells him you’re not a bad person and the look on Crowe’s face says he wants her to believe it.

5. Sully Published September 27th 13 Likes – 55 Views ***1/2

Sully has a lean runtime as it is but in search of drama they beefed up the PTSD angle of the flight crew and positioned the crash investigative team as antagonists. It might have been more interesting to go into more detail of his wife’s story or that of the flight attendants relayed in Sullenberger’s memoir but no matter. Whatever its flaws, Clint Eastwood has directed the best action set pieces of 2015 – yeah you fucking heard me. I wept not one tear for Jyn Erso or Batman but when that ferry arrived at the wing I felt my face crack. As someone who has read a lot about the story, the things that he got right honour so many who lived through this on that fateful day. It’s an extraordinary story rendered justice and pathos on the big screen by two of America’s icons. Eastwood and Tom Hanks. “Sully is an American hero. We should cherish that simple reassuring fact until the end of time that such things can be true and real in this day and age. Yet Chelsey Sullenberger is also a man, a quiet professional of considerable skill and talent but a human being with flaws and doubts like the rest of us. Clint Eastwood’s film accepts both these truths can co-exist but has something to say about how each responded to the events of January 15, 2009.

4. Hidden Figures Published February 24 at Scenestr ***1/2

Hidden Figures is a Hollywood rendering of an important story of bright African American women who broke down career barriers and overcame racial prejudice in a volatile time for America socially. With a rocking soundtrack from producer Pharrell Williams, great humour and pathos there are scenes that may not have played out like this in real life but they’re satisfying and emotionally moving. “Whether it is Costner smashing down a segregated toilet sign, Parsons comically reeling at Henson’s insight or a several female calculators led by Spencer marching into the new computer room to run it. Contrived though it may be, it is uplifting storytelling and aspiring for young girls out there interested in science and maths that have been wrongly told that’s not their strong suit.

3. Hunt for the Wilderpeople Published August 11th 24 Likes – 99 Views ****

Every year there’s always a film that surprises you and comes out of nowhere to become one of your favourites. A story of one boy camping out in the New Zealand wilderness with his ‘uncle’ the film boasts a great sense of humour, wild characters, an involving family unit in flux and the best car chase ever put to film in New Zealand. “His name is Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison), he’s a big kid who’s had it a bit rough, he’ll tell you he doesn’t care about anything, ready to argue with anybody who puts him down and he’s constantly using words from pop culture to describe himself as a bad-ass street kid. Aunt Bella sees right through him in 10 seconds flat. A home maybe the most important thing you can give a child and by that I don’t mean a nice house to live in. Bella (Rima Te Wiata) lives with Hec (Sam Neil) who was a wanderer who used to live in the woods before he met her. Kids are not the only ones who need a good place to call home.

2. Deadpool Published March 17th 6 Likes – 61 Views ****

We don’t get great blockbusters as much as we like to think; the superhero genre has been with us for a while now and needed a shake-up. A film like Deadpool made against the odds cannot be celebrated and praised enough no matter how much money it makes. This was hands down the most fun I had at the movies last year, witty and meta in a way I could only have dreamed about in the past with well-made action sequences and characters who had well defined and believable relationships. A gem. “T.J. Miller as Wilson’s best friend Weasel has his moments which are a bit like his comedy. His acceptance speech at the Critic’s Choice Awards last year was awesome but the guy just doesn’t always do it for me and that’s true here too. I suppose since this is a review I should probably be more articulate in my opinion of Miller but  I really would rather write about how amazingly hot Jennifer Garner is. I mean seriously those cheekbones, that smile. By the way Jenny there was absolutely nothing wrong with the black one.

Image result for eye in the sky

1. Eye in the Sky Published March 29th 8 Likes – 96 Views ****

It turns out the first great film of 2016 was for me the greatest film of 2016. Released so long ago it never had a shot at the Oscar race the fact remains this is a near perfect film dealing with current discussion points about drone warfare, counter terrorism and the intertwining of the battlefield with politics. It boasts the late great Alan Rickman’s final performance but the film belongs to Helen Mirren as military commander ordering a strike and Aisha Takow playing a little girl selling bread on a street corner in Kenya. “Missiles hovering high in the sky waiting for civilians at trade deals to come and answer their phones. Boys selling cheap plastic buckets to act as a cover story for an agent while he operates multi-million dollar miniature drones to fly inside a safe house. Bread in a wood fired oven potentially being a death sentence. Gavin Hood’s film powerfully conveys a brave new world with the same old truths of human nature. We want to raise our children in peace, go to work, come home and see them playing in our yards. But war has always existed and people die in wars.

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, I found this video about them from Screen Junkies very amusing.

-Lloyd Marken

JURASSIC WORLD: A CROWD PLEASER THAT LIVES UP TO THE TITLE

Jurassic World either thinks it’s a lot more cleverer than it is or is actually a lot more clever then we give it credit for. It’s usually a fine line between the two. Regardless Jurassic World essentially remakes Jurassic Park lacking the Spielbergian touch and iconic tension building scenes he gave us. There are no shaking glasses of water or torches flashing the eyes of a monster as it looks directly at you. The closest we come is raptors running alongside a hero on a motorcycle. Like all sequels World goes bigger not better but it also playfully acknowledges dare we say criticises these conventions. The every man scientist replaced here by a Navy hero, the corporate career woman takes centre stage in the finale not a side plot, the hubris of the CEO here leads to an action scene not a quiet moment of regret and the signature monster of the piece is both the cause of so much carnage and also a reflection of our own unhealthy desires for corporate excess and new unnecessary products, the kids are not just smart and cute but kinda hurting due to their parents divorcing, the treacherous human here is neither the instigator of the crisis nor in it purely for profit but he is far more evil as well. There is also restraint displayed in the use of the dinosaurs with a handful of species gradually coming into the narrative for their respective scenes, only the popular raptors and chief monster star throughout. That last minute reveal made me break out in a grin. The plot might be uninspired but the riffs on the original formula are and create some good will towards the film. What can I say? I liked it and so did the world. The film currently holds various opening weekend records and is the 3rd highest grossing film of all time. The Force Awakens might give it a run for the money but the film’s comparative success would suggest it’s time to tap into 90s nostalgia far more so than 70s or 80s nostalgia themed vehicles. . Alas nobody told Adam Sandler and Arnold Schwarznegger.

As the trailers intoned The Park has opened twenty years after the disastrous events of Jurassic Park. In fact it’s been running for some time without incident but wouldn’t you know it-all hell is about to break loose. Claire Mitchell is the operations manager of the park with her two nephews Zack and Gray being dispatched there for a holiday under her care while their parents’ divorce. I’ll allow that they probably correctly predict emotions will boil over from the negotiations in the law offices and wanted to spare their kids while giving them a distraction before the hammer falls. Not my idea of how to play it but I’ve never experienced the trauma of divorce first hand so as plans go maybe it’s a good idea. The park, the only of its kind in the world, is seeing dwindling interest in the phenomenal and unique novelty of dinosaurs existing in the modern world!!!!!!! So they genetically engineer a monster dinosaur called Indominus Rex or I-Rex for short (that can’t be coincidence and kudos to the writers) made out of all of the demands of focus groups who want a bigger meaner deadlier dinosaur for the sequel-I mean park. Thankfully Burt Macklin, FBI himself is on the island training raptors and looking positively bad-ass with a leather vest, rolled up sleeves and a motor bike. I won’t spoil the break-out but you know one is coming. The film thankfully sets things up in a call back to old school blockbuster by leaving the first act relatively action free. We get introduced to the characters and their relationships to each other. Then we get a sense of the scope of the park and then we are suitably unnerved by the new monster that immediately seems like a bad idea. Once all those things are ticked off the film lets the proverbial hit the fan.  If there is one criticism I can’t shake it’s the lack of an immediate lock down the second a dinosaur is on the loose but distance from the break out and the main park gives the powers that be confidence they can recover the creature with minimal PR damage. I guess. Look if your business relies on patronage and you’re sitting in a control room with dozens of employees who are aware of your decisions in a crisis I’d be putting the customer’s safety first but maybe that’s just me. Maybe even a 10 second phone call to the nephews to make sure they’re secured even if you don’t care much about the general populace no?! Yes I know that would kill the plot but I don’t like dumb decisions from characters I’m supposed to being rooting for. By the way, notice how cool Chris Pratt looks when he sensibly says “Evacuate the island.”

Jurassic Park 22 years ago starred a relative unknown handsome Sam Neil as Dr. Alan Grant making palaeontologists sexy but whose occupation immediately positioned the lead as an everyman albeit one whom had knowledge and enough wherewithal to get through a crisis. By contrast Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady is a man of action whom is both emotionally adolescent around his fellow humans and stoically in tune with the true nature of animals. He hasn’t been studying dinosaurs for years; he’s been training them like a lion tamer for a little while after leaving the Navy. The focus on work over family and the awakening of paternal instincts of Grant are now saddled with the female lead which may seem stunningly retro until you consider that nobody would cry boo if that arc was handed to a male character. Maybe we all just need to chill.

Bryce Dallas Howard is arguably the main character of the film as Claire. She’s basically running the park and is a successful career woman mostly office bound having to liaise with clients and potential sponsors. It’s not impossible to imagine she would wear heels or find herself still wearing them outfield (albeit I know plenty of career women who always have a pair of joggers under their desk but I digress) but it has certainly been the source of much mocking over this American summer. I’ve run in heels (hey I was a drama student once upon a time) and it is not easy but not impossible as clearly displayed here by Rachel McAdams in Morning Glory. Howard is great in the role, her first real go at a blockbuster since her M. Night Shymalan films really and clunky dialogue aside she grounds the film well. We’re not really given much reason on the surface to like her at first. She’s ignoring her nephews (although I’d say she selflessly took them on for her distant sister who clearly doesn’t understand how busy her job is) and prattling on about sales and assets and not liking Chris Pratt who is sooooo cool but if you stop and think about it for a second long before her closing kick ass moment she’s the most sensible and consistent character in the film. She’s a professional doing her job, she is trying to spend time with her nephews despite clearly big things happening in her workday and she sets out to find them when it becomes obvious the situation is dire. I found the heaving bosom in the pink singlet top distracting but the girl has to breathe and when you fall you might go down on your hips and push up with your arms. If that means you look like you’re striking a swimsuit calendar pose then maybe some people just have a wild imagination. Nobody would complain if Chris Pratt had pulled off his shirt sleeves to dress a wound and showed off the Hammer Brothers but sadly it’s only Claire Mitchell who sheds clothes to transform from buttoned up corporate busy body to Aunty Bear Bad-Ass. Maybe that’s because it’s well established that Chris Pratt is so much more in tune with nature and basic biological instincts that Claire has repressed for too long or so the movie would have you believe. In 2015 maybe we should be more celebratory about a female character that is successful professionally and doesn’t have to be defined by how she relates to children but one female character in one blockbuster doesn’t have to answer every aspiration for her whole gender. We’re all unique and complicated individuals and the move for equality will survive a female character that in the end prioritises family over career especially if she gets to save everyone.

The two kids who the primary audience will identify with are probably not as great as Lex and Tim Hammond from the original film but they feel more modern in a way. Tim and Lex were hanging out at Grandpa’s work, suitably terrified by the turn of events but remarkably capable too. By comparison Gray Mitchell is still wonderfully enthusiastic about his holiday but far more emotional about the reality of his parent’s divorce. Zack Mitchell his older brother like all teenagers coats his pain with outward indifference and frustrated hormones. Leaving a smitten girlfriend behind at home he stares at the smorgasbord of members of the opposite sex on holiday in the park. What a dick you might judge. Except why would a kid value a relationship when his parents are about to throw in the towel on theirs. Plus as the story moves on his real affection for his little brother comes to the fore. Like most older brothers. These kids are hurting with something far more terrifying than a raptor and as the divorce rate stands at 40-50% in the U.S. there are certainly a lot of kids in this film who are going to find it relatable.

Irrfan Khan played by Simon Masrani is both a cheerful and likeable CEO if not a maker of smart decisions and Vincent D’Onofrio is suitably slimy as Vic Hoskins -head of security. A smile breaking out across his face halfway through the film seals his fate and when it comes it is wonderfully satisfying. Vince you can play scumbags any time you want buddy but I do like you as heroes, maniacs and lead villains too. The cast is filled out by very talented actors who mostly get at least one moment to shine but these are the main hitters.

One of the smartest decisions I think the filmmaking team have made here is the characterization of the dinosaurs themselves. The I-Rex keeps pulling out a new surprising capability long after somebody-anybody should have thrown Dr Henry Wu up against the wall and made him spill everything but as monsters go he looms large as a threat for the whole film through several encounters and that is pretty impressive.  The Raptors being given names if not personalities (except you Blue, you’re my boy Blue) and getting to be used for good is also a nice development. The film boasts likeable humans thank God but nobody forgot that some good dinosaur on dinosaur action holds massive appeal.

But I’ve dissected the film like an adult looking for double meanings and narrative originality. This is a big kid’s film and after watching an interview with director Colin Trevorrow claiming he directed the whole film as if from a child’s sensibility-immediately the film shot up in my estimates. The repetition of the words Animals and Assets that Honest Trailers picked up, the bickering between the female and male lead at the beginning, the stolen kiss later on, the set pieces, the inexplicable lazy fat security guard for the I-Rex’s enclosure, the overtly long staring at girls from Zack and pretty much every characterisation is informed by this viewpoint and all for the better. In particular the seriousness and lack of silliness in the scenes referencing the divorce become more poignant too. In the American summer of blockbusters this year Jurassic World made more money than Mad Max: Fury Road, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man. In my humble opinion those four films are better films and better blockbusters but Jurassic World I suspect made more money for a very good reason. Maybe Jurassic World doesn’t think it’s smarter than it is. Maybe I do. Go see it, only a fool wouldn’t enjoy it.

-Lloyd Marken