What We Do In The Shadows Movie Review

what we do in the shadows

See it. 7/10

“We’re Werewolves, not Swear-Wolves”

It might not necessarily handle an original subject but the comedy gold that comes out spins a refreshing twist and more than makes up for choosing to tackle a familiar genre. What We Do In The Shadows is another shining example of the style of humor The Flight of the Conchords are famous for, which makes sense because both were produced and co-directed by one half of that duo in Jermaine Clement. The jokes that come from this feature adaption are as witty and clever as their sense of knowing how to produce new ideas from a subject matter that’s inherently dated. Forget Twilight, this very well might be the funniest movie about Vampires and Werewolves ever made. But then again, the bar wasn’t really that set that high, to begin with.

The story follows a group of Vampires living together in an old house, as cameras follow their daily events and capture the lives of each character as they try to exist in harmony. Yes, it’s a similar style of mockumentary that I’ve seen before in TV shows like The Office or Modern Family, but coupled with the charm of the story and of the humor of the characters, it more than enough raises it up from a simple vampire story and instead  a hilarious film that just happens to revolve around the supernatural.

Why so many of jokes worked so well in What We Do In The Shadows is mainly thanks to its charismatic actors in their lead roles. Jermaine Clement is a notable standout, who has a nice knowledge of timing and delivery to help sell the punchlines of the jokes even more, which is an aspect that made me enjoy that style of humor with his band The Flight of the Conchords, so I was glad to see it translate so well here when tackling a different subject and environment. More importantly, I thought most of the jokes were actually genuinely funny.

The humor was often based off making fun of typical tropes associated with depictions of Vampires and I was glad to see them poking fun at such stereotypes of themselves. The idea to put them into a modern setting and explore how Vampires and Werewolves would live in current society also added to the jokes that could be made. It made the comedy more original whilst still being funny and even relatable.

What I was watching was a humorous interpretation of the question, if vampires and werewolves did exist, how would they fit into the world that we now know? Of course, the answer divulged into the lighter humorous side but that’s the whole point when the film is a comedy. So, although there may have been some flaws with how certain events would work in reality, (like why is there no police around investigating suspicious disappearances of people at their house) I don’t care because the script is intended to make me laugh and not portray an incredibly realistic adaption. All it needs is just enough logic and relatability to a modern setting and that’s it.

Apart from my love of the story, I also enjoyed the technical aspects of the film, particularly with the practical effects. There were often scenes showing vampires floating in the air, walking on walls, or even just fighting ludicrously outside of a club which was all done great. Not only did it add to the portrayal of their abilities, so it wasn’t just a film about people dressed to look like vampires. It also showed a level of care and effort to make those scenes work which I appreciated it. This is my favorite film from Taika Waititi who co-directed it alongside with Jermaine Clement, who later went onto to helm Thor: Ragnarok which in my eyes, wasn’t as funny as What We Do In The Shadows.

This film is very accessible and not only because it’s out on Netflix in Australia and the United States, but also from an audience level. The jokes and style of humor is never at all mean-spirited nor is it overly dark or black comedy, which is probably why The Flight of The Conchords have gained such recognition. The hilarity comes from lampooning the tropes in a clever way but also by focusing on witty observational remarks that again ooze why the script is fantastic to watch. What We Do In The Shadows is quotable, funny and very charming. Watch it if you’re in for a good comedy but have been thinking you’ve seen them all because this is definitely one of those hidden gems. See it.

Burn After Reading Movie Review

burn after reading

See if. 8/10

“Report back to me when it makes sense”

If Seinfeld met the Coen Brothers, had a baby, and taught it how to use a camera, Burn After Reading would be the result. Only the Coen Brothers can make a movie that both simultaneously appears to be about nothing but also about everything, which is fitting given the title is to burn some knowledge that you first read and never see again. It’s a film that might leave you scratching your head by the end but ultimately, that’s exactly what it wants to do and I for one thought it was all great.

I’ve mentioned this previously, but the Coen Brothers have basically put filmmaking down to a science. Apart from Hail Caesar! and The Lady Killers, they haven’t really done anything wrong and have continued to make fantastic films across a variety of themes. Which is more than likely why the story for Burn After Reading also works because it’s handled by two people who can seemingly take any subject matter and make it incredibly interesting. This is also due to the wonderful array of characters they’ve created in their filmography and in Burn After Reading, we get a huge number of them.

From Brad Pitt playing a highly enthusiastic fitness trainer, to John Malkovich as an ex-CIA agent, every character was a burst of energy on screen. And when you have an all-star cast at your disposal with additions like George ClooneyFrances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Richard Jenkins, and J.K Simmons, I’m not surprised that these portrayals are coming to life so vividly. The actor-director relationship is working so well, which stems from the collaboration history for most of those names who have worked on many films directed by the Coen brothers.

This is going to be a fairly short review because just like the name Coen signals, you’re going to be getting some excellent filmmaking on display, but what I will add is that unlike some of the other more serious or tense films like No Country for Old Men, Burn After Reading lends itself to be very idiosyncratic. So much so that it isn’t as quirky as their other film The Big Lebowski, but more on the level where it stands out as being fresh in its own right.

There’s also a lot of different strands coming together with several subplots twinning in on themselves, almost akin to that of Alejandro Iñárritu’s Babel, but it’s much funnier than that. As I said earlier, Burn After Reading really does feel like a Seinfeld episode just in feature-length form because ultimately, it’s a story about nothing and everything at the same time. This is what makes it so unique and why it’s different compared to the Coen brother’s other films.

I’ll be recommending that you check this out since it’s also out on Netflix in Australia and the United States. If you haven’t heard of the Coen brothers and have been living under a rock, then do yourself a favor and fix that immediately. See it.

Dr. Strangelove or How I Learnt To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb Movie Review

dr strangelove

See it. 9/10

When it comes to political satires, you can hardly beat this. Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or How I Learnt to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is a hilarious yet tense drama that pokes fun at its subject matter and isn’t shy about delving deep into its underlying seriousness. What happens if the end of the world can be started by a push of a button?

Peter Sellers puts on a masterclass of acting by dwelling into three characters; Captain Mandrake, President Muffley, and Dr. Strangelove, the latter being his finest. The film explores the predicament facing the U.S President tasked with stopping a madman from unleashing a thermal nuclear war with Russia. The trick here is that the madman is, in turn, a general that’s with the Royal Air Force who has gone completely insane with conspiracy theories against the communist regime. It’s the Cold War that could have been and one that never ceases to make you smile.

I think one of the reasons this film is regarded as a classic is because no matter how insane and convoluted its plot becomes, it remains believable as it has deep-seeded relevance. We never feel that this is too ridiculous to be a possibility simply due to the story’s roots in logic. Nuclear war was almost a very true possibility at the time, and the tools to do so today haven’t changed. In fact, the fears of nuclear war have worsened and have an increasing resonance with today’s society (think North Korea).

What makes the film brilliant is the subtle yet hilarious undertones throughout the film. You can’t help but smile at the escalation of each disastrous situation, even though you feel tense at the same time. Peter Sellers as Strangelove also steals the show with apparent buried Nazi tendencies still surfacing in front of others.

Whilst it might not make everyone burst out laughing in comparison to traditional comedies we’ve come to know lately, Kubrick’s films are in a class of their own. It’s sharp, witty, and rooted in a fully realized fictional world that could still be our future. A must watch for any film lover. See it.

Black Dynamite Movie Review

black dynamite

See it. 9/10

By far, the best comedy to have come out in the past decade. Black Dynamite shines as a film that mocks classic 70’s black exploitation (blaxploitation) movies, but it does so in a way that doesn’t make mean-spirited jests at such a genre. Rather, Black Dynamite simply uses the blaxploitation medium as a mask to bring forth a hilarious story that works in such a setting.

Only in a film released in 2009 can you get a seriously funny plot about the life of a man known as Black Dynamite who is a crime-fighting, off the rails ex-police detective. The story sees him searching for justice when his younger brother is killed, but instead leads into an entirely different journey that you wouldn’t have seen coming. Without giving anything else away, it is so much better if you go into seeing this film without knowing anything because you’ll love all the laughs that come with the surprises of the story. But if you do want to know what kind of movie you’re walking into, the film’s trailer alone is hilarious and still doesn’t reveal much of the laughter that you’ll find after you watch the film.

What makes Black Dynamite so great, is its self-awareness in what it is trying to mimic and parody. By disguising itself as a blaxploitation film, it plays on the characteristics that made those films so cheesy and poorly made, instead of capitalizing on it and turning them into laughs. An aspect of this is the use of intentional filmmaking mistakes. For example, a boom mic that pops into the frame that seems like it was there by accident and is a fault of the film but it’s actually something that was done on purpose by the directors, to both subtly lampoon the B-grade blaxploitation genre and garner up laughs. This extends to moments where the fourth wall is broken, people break characters or even appear to be bad acting.

All of this is done with a sense of self-awareness, knowing full well that they are meant to look bad and be perceived in a hilarious light. This is what gives the potential for a comedy that is self-aware, to be so great if done well, and is something which Black Dynamite has utilized. This is a movie that is not intended to be taken seriously and is willing to poke fun at themselves to add another dynamic to the comedy.

But apart from the meta-like humor, the film is enough to stand alone as a hilarious comedy in its own right. There are plenty of laughs throughout the story and the jokes per minute are at a staggeringly high rate. You could re-watch this film over and over again and pick up on new little nuances that you mightn’t have seen the first time. It’s the quality of the writing that truly adds depth to the quantity of these jokes and is the reason for why you’d want to come back to watch it another time or show it to your friends.

Black Dynamite has a script so good that it outweighs its direction, but it doesn’t matter because both serve each other as much as they need to. Perhaps for some, the silly like nature or the jokes relating to African-American stereotypes aren’t in their ballpark. But this script is so well made, that’s it very difficult not to find yourself quickly swept up in its fun and nonsensical world. There are far too many notable lines of dialogue and memorable catchphrases, that are just worthy enough by themselves to standout as comedy gold in a film and was something I was completely up for.

I got every bit of my hopeful and high expectations from watching the trailer (which almost never happens in other films) and then some. Black Dynamite is almost the perfect comedy to have been made in the last ten years, because of so many different little things the filmmakers have managed to get right. It’s smart, funny and above all just simply entertaining. I can’t wait to see what these guys make next. They currently have a crowdfunding page to acquire funds for their next movie The Outlaw Johnny Black and by the looks of things, I’m already excited about that. So, go see this film and then go help fund their next one because man if these guys aren’t the comic geniuses of modern day cinema, I don’t know who else could come close.

Fantastic Mr. Fox Movie Review

fantastic mr fox

See it. 8/10

Given Wes Anderson is about to release another stop-motion animation picture, Isle Of Dogs, let’s dive into reviewing his very first animation, Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Based on Roald Dahl’s children’s book of the same name, the plot follows the life of a thieving but good-hearted fox, who is simply trying to provide for his family. Unfortunately, he is thieving from three of the meanest and wealthiest farmers in the area, who become tired of Mr. Fox’s criminal activities and decide to think up a scheme to get rid of him once and for all. You might already gather that the story does feel very much like it was intended for children, and I mean duh, it was based on a children’s novel, but unlike most children book to film adaptations, this is a film that can be pleasantly enjoyed by adult’s as well.

This is thanks largely to its marvelous director, whose filmography is one of the best in the business. In his first venture to stop-motion animation, Anderson’s eye for detail is matched with an amazing production design. From the set pieces to the tiniest amount of character traits that have been precisely manufactured, everything in this world that Anderson oversees is amazing to look at. Since everything has to be animated, later on, it just staggers me how much effort would have to be put in to make it all happen. It might also have helped that Anderson directed a crew that also worked on Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, another stop-motion animated film, so I’m not surprised by how great everything looked.

Another great aspect, which should be no surprise, is the obvious skill of Anderson’s shot selection. Apart from being a director who loves to have symmetry in his films, he’s also one of the best users of the lateral tracking shot. Often these scenes, which employ this type of shot, will follow sideways with the characters for extended lengths of time, taking with it all the beautiful visual design in the background. It’s even crazier to think that whilst there was a large amount of effort put into building these set pieces, the shots whizz by so quickly and the set piece is never seen again. These extremely small one-percenters, that have an incredible amount of work behind them but only are used for a few seconds of the runtime, is why I love this film and this director.

There’s not much else to say when it comes down to it because, at the end of the day, when you hear the name of Wes Anderson, you know exactly what you’re getting into a great film. He’s one of the best working in the business and he’s been growing strength to strength with every movie that he’s made. I’m happy to see him return back to the stop-motion animation platform with his latest about to be released, and the fact that’s it set in Japan and has dogs in it is putting almost all of my favorite things in this world together. So, before you go and enjoy that film, make sure you revisit Fantastic Mr. Fox, especially since it’s on Netflix and easily watchable.

The LEGO Movie Review

the lego movie

See it. 9/10

I can’t believe I liked this so much, but Goddamn (!), The LEGO Movie is if anything, seriously underrated.

Like most others, when I saw that LEGO was making a movie, I couldn’t help but think this was just going to be yet another way for a company to market their product to a mass audience. That this was just going to be a big ass LEGO commercial for kids, which would make their parents buy them more LEGO because they saw the new movie and they want everything and anything that was in the new movie.

But what no one expected was that it was actually going to be a cleverly written and very funny film. A film that was smart enough for adults to enjoy but also still is childishly delightful for kids. If you’re still a skeptic, let me explain why in this review.

The movie follows a construction worker Emmet Brickowski (get it, Brick-owski), who finds himself quickly swept up as part of a resistance group, who are trying to overthrow a tyrannical maniac that is about ruining the world of LEGO as they know it. Sounds simple enough but hold your horses, this synopsis doesn’t do justice to the number of layers and degrees of complexity that is behind it.

It is a movie that takes common film and narrative clichés, that would have dragged it down as any other normal kids movie would, and throws it upside down by being a parody of all those said clichés. This happens straight from the get-go, as Emmet shows us the aspects of how to be awesome and happy in this world, what everyone else is meant to do, and why everything is how it is. It’s this dystopian exaggeration of our society, that’s translated to a computer-animated LEGO world that makes it so clever. All of this is subtle enough that you might be mistaken to pass it over as a film that is following typical cliché’s, and that doesn’t realize it’s actually just an intelligent satire of those aspects.

This is why The LEGO Movie isn’t just any ordinary kid’s movie. Thanks to the incredibly spectacular computer-animation, you’ve got yourself a seriously underrated film. I am baffled at how this film wasn’t even considered for an Academy Award in the Best Animated Feature Film category and is probably a reflection towards the idea that most of the Academy members don’t even watch the films they nominate. If you just watch the trailer alone, you’ll be astounded at how amazing the visuals are, and much like my love for stop-animation, the detail to set designs and character movements are fantastic.

The LEGO Movie is a story within a story. It is one of the most entertaining animated movies to date and a movie that is leagues beyond what I was expecting. Equally smart as it is funny, if you are yet to see this film, go check it out on Netflix because you’d be hard-pressed to find others that can come even close to giving you the same experience. See it.