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.

The Purge: Anarchy Movie Review

the purge anarchy

Skip it. 3.5/10

Better but still not that great.

After my disappointment with the first in the series, I was not looking forward to the sequel The Purge: Anarchy, but surprisingly I had a much better time watching it because the story opened up a lot more different scenarios. But just to be clear, it’s still a bad film overall as it’s not flawless in the slightest. However, compared to the original, it was a much-needed burst of resurgence given I was predicting the series should go through a purge of its own and be killed off entirely.

The biggest aspect that worked for The Purge: Anarchy was the expansion of the storyline to follow three sets of people. It was a good decision to split up the plot into these groups of characters because not only did it allow for a different range of characters to enjoy but it also opened up the landscape for where the story could be headed. Especially since this time we were taken to the streets of where the “Purge” chaos was happening, instead of being confined to some house like a creepy spinoff of Home Alone. That step towards the outside in the narrative was another good choice by the writers. I enjoyed the fact that I could explore the outside with these characters and get an insight of how it all looks on that fateful night.

Having said that, I was still hoping for a lot more out of this film. I wished that the three groups of characters didn’t meet up so quickly and become essentially stuck together. It would have been better to see three parallel storylines occurring and then, later, they all meet up, say towards the final act or the very end. Some of the characters weren’t really that interesting to me and could be annoying at times (yet again). It wasn’t the same level as my hatred for the children (especially the daughter) in the first film, but it was still noticeable, and I definitely had a few favorites which goes back to how they were written.   Though I will say that I did care more about any of their lives and was more sympathetic to them being in danger overall than the characters in the first film.

My other biggest complaint was with the runtime that was way too long and tried to fit in too many scenarios that were basically all the same. At an hour and forty-seven minutes long, this is just way too much time for an action horror set piece. I noticed by the time the third act kicked in, which came far too late and was completely unnecessary to throw in or should have come much earlier in the film. The situations basically followed the same idea of making their way through the city at night, coming into trouble, fighting off and surviving that encounter, then repeating it again. When that happens over and over again for such a long time, you can’t help but zone out.

The film also doesn’t really squash the same complaints that I have with the first Purge film, with how the whole concept works. I guess they just decided to leave it as it is, given it worked so well in the first place so why bother changing it. But aside from taking the story to explore the outside world a lot more, it also really didn’t add to the mythology of this dystopian universe. Sure, I can see a couple of interesting aspects were thrown in, which I won’t devolve into to keep this spoiler free, but for the most part, the concept of the film is just an excuse or reasoning to see action sequence after action sequence. It seems like no one really wanted to add anything else remotely intelligent or thought-provoking about the film’s premise.

So, having said what worked better compared to the first, there is still a lot that drags this film down overall and as such, I don’t recommend you waste your time watching it. Yes, this film could in all honesty be (or should have been) the first in the series, because it does a lot more with the script compared to the original. If you’re still interested in seeing how an interesting concept like the Purge night would work in a film, I’d suggest starting from The Purge: Anarchy and moving onwards. But other than, I wouldn’t really be jumping out of my seat to see it. And with that I say. Skip it.

Mommy Movie Review

mommy

See it. 9.5/10

This is the best family drama that I have ever seen.

Mommy had me feeling the same level of emotion that I felt for the Spike Jonze’s Her but in a completely different way. I was shocked, sympathetic and also very saddened by the time the credits started to appear which was all credit to the fantastic writing and direction by Xavier Dolan. I wish the film was so much bigger than it is because it’s only typically known in the country where it originated from, Canada.

But nevertheless, Mommy is a masterpiece. It comes so close to being a masterpiece in so many ways because I could continue to list how amazing all of the performances were as well as the music and the cinematography. Everything about this film was an exceptional achievement and for a film that comes in at a lengthy 138 minutes of runtime, it was never boring at all.

I mentioned that this film dealt with a family drama but I don’t really want to give much more information than that because going into this not knowing much will only add to your experience in a great way. What I will say is that it primarily revolves around just three lead actors, all of whom are fantastic in their roles. I doubt if they had cast others that I would have loved this film as much as I did because they were just so believable and unique in the roles that without them, Mommy simply wouldn’t have worked. You simply couldn’t do it any other way and I’m glad Xavier Dolan chose them specifically.

The film is also shot in an unconventional form by using a handheld camera in a 1:1 aspect ratio and it’s unusual since most of what you’ll see in the cinema is done in 1.85:1 or 2.35:1. Some have said that it seems very pretentious because it might seem like it’s done to simply standout as an independent film, but even if it looks like those old silent Charlie Chaplain films, there’s a genuine narrative driven choice to use the chosen aspect ratio. And by watching the film, you’ll get exactly what I mean because when it does get revealed, it makes the use of such a format the most appropriate and best employment of such a technique I have seen in a film. It’s so fucking smart and great that I know this film had great direction.

Although I’ve only seen another one of his films, Tom at the Farm which was also great, I’m excited to see the rest of his filmography. Mommy might be his best work because the story is so amazing to watch unfold and I doubt anything he could do would top it, but I sincerely hope he does. There are so many different little things that happen in each scene of this movie that ultimately continue to set the bar higher as the runtime plays out. Like I said at the beginning of this review, this is the definitive peak of family drama that I have ever watched on film. Krisha is still high on such a list as I mentioned in my review of that film but the emotional connections Mommy installs are something of another nature.

I love this movie and it’s one of my all-time favorites so watch it if you can. Thank God it’s out on Netflix in the United States. See it.

Force Majeure Movie Review

force majeure

See it. 8.5/10

Much like the name, this is an unexpected force of a film.

Force Majeure means an unforeseen set of circumstances that typically prevent someone from fulfilling a contract but its application is an original and thoroughly engrossing drama. It deals with the particular relationship dynamic between a married couple in light of a recent event and man, is this a tense conflict that is explored.

Why this dynamic is so great to watch is mainly because of how it’s fairly minimalistic. Apart from the opening scenes that introduce you to the said event, the film focuses on the couple specifically with some very well written dialogue. As they continue to converse and argue with each other, you become more and more engrossed in their scenario and it’s so tense to watch. Picture a situation of where you’d take Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight and mixed it into a sort of family drama like Krisha but is instead between two people. And you watch as their relationship slowly gets the biggest exposure of a potential flaw, one that none of them would have expected but brings up certain notions about their marriage.

It’s the concept of being presented with such an unforeseen event that smartly puts you in the questioning of what would you do if you were in that scenario. Force Majeure explores the consequences of one person’s reaction to the unpredictable but by doing so, it allows you to inquisitively think about your own moral ethics and fears that you might be harboring inside. Ones that you might not even be aware of because you’ve simply never been in such a situation so how on Earth are you going to know which way you’re going to react if it came to that. I’m speaking in a lot of general terms without revealing what the event of this film is because not knowing anything going into it will also put you on the spot and echo the same feeling for you that the characters are experiencing.

But like all films that use a minimalistic approach with only a few choices of settings used, the script’s believability lies in the performance of the dialogue. This is what Force Majeure does very well because every character is reacting in such a realistic way that it’s adding to the engrossing factor of this film. I loved the way both the husband and wife argued with each other since not only did I find what they were discussing inherently interesting given the event that’s caused their relationship to be in strife but also because I genuinely understood both sides of the arguments.

In a strange way, I felt like I was backing both of their reasons in their marital fight because the dialogue was written so well that each character had very reasonable motivations behind what they were saying. If I was acting like Judge Judy and attempted to decide who was right and who was wrong, I don’t think I could give you an answer. Instead, I’m rather focused on thinking how I would react and am just enthralled at the following discussions that arise out of it.

Force Majeure is truly the unexpected force of a film and it’s fairly unknown which I feel like is such a shame because of how great of a minimalistic drama it is. The tensions that it presents arise from such an original scenario and it’s one that you might have always been thinking about in the back of your mind but have never seen dealt with in a film. This is why I love Force Majeure because it not only makes you think about its subject matter but it comes at you in such refreshing way and one that is written in a perfect way. Watch it if you can and for those in the United States, it’s easily accessible by Netflix so now you’ve got no excuse to do so. See it.

Nightcrawler Movie Review

nightcrawler

See it. 8/10

Jake Gyllenhaal in what is yet another fine performance.

I’ve hammered on about it in another review of the film Prisoners but damn do I love watching Gyllenhaal take on a new and challenging role, and with Nightcrawler we definitely get just that. This film is a fantastic character study of a disturbing sociopath and it does so by shining a camera on a topic most audiences wouldn’t be privy towards.

Nightcrawler is all about the world of shooting horrifying and graphical images of real-life incidents for local news television updates. It’s about the people who are behind the camera of what you see on television and those that are responsible for putting themselves out there to capture what you don’t want to see but can’t help but look. And just like that very notion, this film is a perfect example of being captivated by something that you normally wouldn’t be but also something that you know you shouldn’t be.

This film pits the issue of what is allowed to be filmed and shown on television alongside the question of whether you can do so without feeling any sense of moral or ethical burdens. For most, and just like myself, I’d side on the traditional and conservative side. But for others that we come to watch Nightcrawler, it’s just another opportunity to make it into primetime.

A moral dilemma like this is examined by Gyllenhaal’s character Louis Bloom, who is one of these people that records violent events in the city of Los Angeles and sells it to the news. But Nightcrawler’s story goes deeper into psychic of what makes Louis Bloom tic and why he often crosses over those traditional lines of ethics, to simply profit off those that are so unfortunate. All of which, wouldn’t come to fruition if it weren’t for how great Gyllenhaal’s performance is. In Louis Bloom, he installed a new set of creepy quirks and traits, from the way he interacted with other characters to even just how he was by himself. From the tone and delivery of his dialogue to the way he looked and moved, everything was intended to create an unsettling portfolio of a sociopath, which worked fantastically and I had a blast watching him every time he was on screen, which thankfully was a lot.

The compliments for creating such a fun and interesting character to observe ultimately come down to the great script by writer and director Dan Gilroy. His discovery of what is called the “stringer” profession and the idea to develop it to a psychological drama setting, is an aspect I’m glad we got to be introduced to. I feel like, for whatever reason, Nightcrawler is akin to a sleeper hit, as it isn’t really discussed or brought up in conversation. Although it went onto be nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the 87th Academy Awards and thankfully grossed a nice $50 million from an $8 million budget.

Nightcrawler is one of Jake Gyllenhaal’s best films and a greatly entertaining character study. It’s something original and fresh but also dark and disturbing enough to make a great film. It isn’t perfect but it’s positives far outweigh the negatives and I’d recommend seeing this out on Netflix if you get the chance, because it’s one of those hidden gems that need a spotlight on it. So, check it out when you can.

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.

Whiplash Movie Review

whiplash

See it. 9/10

Whiplash takes the meaning of the word tense and dials it up to a thousand.

It’s a question that has often plagued me, as well I’m sure others who have ever competed in any form of sport or art: does the end justify the means? Does pushing a person beyond the limits of what’s typically expected of them, become a reasonable method of motivation if that person goes on to produce something remarkable? Are the two worst words in the English dictionary simply just saying to someone “good job?”. These are the questions that Whiplash forces in your face relentlessly until you’re left with a tense feeling in your bones, and a nervous train of thought in your brain.

The film depicts the relationship between a young and ambitious jazz student, Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller), and his teacher, the famed but abusive conductor Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons). Neiman aspires to be the best jazz drummer there is, and he believes Fletcher can take him there. However, what surprises him, is Fletcher’s questionable tactics and methods of using fear as a motivator to get the very best from his students, which often leave them with negative consequences. It’s this level of Neiman’s ambition, and the level of Fletcher’s expectation, that ultimately comes under the microscope of Whiplash, and damn is it great to watch.

For any tension or any emotional connections to be drawn out, in a film and work, one of the critical aspects is the performance of the actors. In Whiplash, we get two very fine examples of that with Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons, the former going on to win an Oscar for his role in the film. This should have been no surprise to anyone though because holy shit does J.K. Simmons take it up another notch and then some. As an almost logically driven but also crazy maniac conductor, I have never seen a more perfect role for him. OK, maybe his J. Jonah Jameson from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy might beat this but fuck me does his portrayal of Terence Fletcher come close. Every single scene with him was dynamic, tense and just so entertaining to watch. What works best is that although you might not believe in his methods, you can completely understand his reasons for doing so and the belief he puts into his character’s performance is a testament.

But given this is a film about music, how does that hold up? Well, unlike some films that would depict actors playing a musical instrument but then dub over the audio later, it seems like a lot of care was given to producing the real thing on screen. Again, this goes back to the great choice in selecting Miles Teller, who in real life actually knows how to play the drums. The scenes that showed sequences of the drum being played, even if they were edited at moments, all looked genuinely real. Yes, I’m still certain that they’d dub in the better audio later on (through the amazingly talented Justin Hurwitz as the person in charge of music), the fact that they took the time to practice and rehearse these scenes with shows a fantastic level of effort to the production, considering how complicated some of the drummings was.

Finally, Whiplash has one of the best endings for a film that I’ve seen in a long time. I’d even say that it could be in the top 10 film endings I’ve seen, almost definitely simply on the level of intensity that it gives. Just as you thought it couldn’t get any more tense, that you’d seen all that there was to be seen, wait till you get to the final act. There has been a whole scope of dramatic films, with typically full-breadth runtimes, that couldn’t come close to producing the same amount of intensity for the last 20 minutes of Whiplash. Seriously, it needs to be seen for that alone. I’ll never forget walking out of the cinema and just being gobsmacked.

To sum it up: go see Whiplash if, somehow, you haven’t already. It’s another one of those Netflix Gems and a film that is still my favorite from writer/director Damien Chazelle (who later on went to do La La Land, another great film).