Movie Review – The Lovebirds

The Lovebirds does indeed feature a pair of lovers. Unfortunately, they deserve a better screenplay.

⭐ ⭐
Zachary Cruz-Tan

Oh, how I wish I could recommend a movie simply for its humour and the cheerful chemistry between its actors, without any regard for its plot, vision or design. Not every movie is fortunate enough to be well-rounded, but the good ones at least have a story engaging enough to satisfy us till the end.

The Lovebirds, directed by Michael Showalter, has no such story. Instead, it scribbles together a skeleton plot, ripped from many other comedies in which goofy innocents are wrongfully accused, and watches happily as its cast squares off in a manic joke-athon.

The entire picture is one saggy clothesline on which an endless stream of verbal riffs and sight gags are hung, culminating in a climax that is neither clever, fun nor unexpected. It has an originality rating of about zero. Thankfully, though, it knows how to be funny, mainly because its two lead actors know how to be funny. More importantly, they know how to be funny with each other.

Kumail Nanjiani plays Jibran, a documentary filmmaker in New Orleans who hates reality TV. Issa Rae plays Leilani, his girlfriend of four years who yearns to be on The Amazing Race. You can see where they have problems.

They are so different in fact that one day, on their way to a dinner party, they decide to break things off. Just then, they are carjacked by a man claiming to be a cop (Paul Sparks) who has to hunt down and apprehend a fleeing cyclist. After catching up to and running the poor cyclist over multiple times instead, the man splits, leaving Jibran and Leilani as the primary suspects of a gruesome murder.

I dunno, does all this sound familiar? The rest of The Lovebirds is spent hurriedly following the hapless, bickering couple across the city as they try to solve the murder themselves while evading the cops, occasionally stopping for obligatory interludes that have to remind them of all the lovey-dovey reasons they got together in the first place.

The movie is essentially an exercise in behaviour and verbal agility. There must’ve been hours and hours poured into the screenplay, yet it feels like Showalter yelled “Action!” at the start of production, sat back and allowed Nanjiani and Rae to improvise everything, then yelled “Cut!” after 86 minutes. Nothing truly hilarious or exciting ever happens, not even when Jibran and Leilani stumble into a secret cult and become witnesses to an orgy.

The plot is dead on arrival. The developments that take the bumbling duo from one lead to another are uninspired. I don’t know why it took the two of them four years to realise their differences. I don’t like the way the movie so neatly ties up everything in the end, given the messy way it all began. What I do like, and enjoyed very much, is the easy chemistry between Nanjiani and Rae. They are cute together, really funny, and when they make each other laugh, I completely get why.

The Lovebirds is available on Netflix Australia from May 22

Images courtesy of Netflix Inc.

Movie Review – The Peanut Butter Falcon

Premiering at South by Southwest last year, indie sleeper hit The Peanut Butter Falcon makes its way into Australian cinemas this month.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Rhys Pascoe

Written and directed by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz, The Peanut Butter Falcon centres on Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a 22-year-old with Down Syndrome, who lives in a retirement home in North Carolina. An avid fan of wrestling, Zak is known as a ‘flight risk’ to staff. When he finally flees the facility in the dead of night to seek out his wrestling hero the Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church), it’s up to his carer Eleanor (Dakota Johnson) to track him down.

After spending his first night on the run sleeping under a tarp on a fishing boat, Zak crosses paths with thief and fisherman Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), who is on the run himself after upsetting two fellow crabbers. Together, the two outsiders head out in the sticks in search of somewhere to hide, and along the way forge a special friendship.

While Nilson and Schwartz’s twee script isn’t going to win any awards for originality, The Peanut Butter Falcon does win you over through sheer charm and sincerity. Zak and Tyler’s escapades in the woods are wholesome AF. They eat watermelons (and wear them as helmets), use bottles as target practice and work on their secret handshake.

Between this and the recent Honey Boy, LaBeouf continues to take his career in new and interesting directions. Johnson has deftly moved on from the Fifty Shades saga with some equally varied choices, this film included. However, it’s Gottsagen who (rightly) shines brightest. His pure onscreen presence pairs beautifully with LaBeouf’s abrasive runaway, until all the rough edges and animosity have melted away between the two.

On paper, the film sounds like it was cooked up using a ‘my first indie film’ starter kit, but by the end of its trim 97-minute run time, the heartfelt ‘friends are the family you choose’ narrative warms the cockles of your heart, even if you cynically think you have seen this kind of movie before (you definitely have). When all is said and done, The Peanut Butter Falcon sells us this idea that we should be out there living life, not sitting around pushing papers and – you know what – it’s hard to argue with that.

The Peanut Butter Falcon is available in Australian cinemas from January 30

Image courtesy of Rialto Distribution

Movie Review – Seberg

Kristen Stewart shines in Benedict Andrew’s unstable biographical thriller.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Zachary Cruz-Tan

I think the real Jean Seberg would’ve deserved better than this. She was a gifted young actor whose later years were marred by controversy and scandal, as the FBI suspected her of funding the radical Black Panther Party. She grew highly paranoid and was found dead in her car in 1979, aged 40, presumed to have taken her own life. Seberg, the new movie based on those tumultuous years, is assured and sympathetic, but it plays too much like a conventional thriller.

According to the plot, Seberg (Kristen Stewart) first met Hakim Jamal (Anthony Mackie) on a flight from France to the United States. Jamal, a cousin to Malcolm X, was a prominent activist in the Black Power movement and way up there on the FBI’s list of suspicious persons. Both Seberg and Jamal were married, but they bonded easily over their shared passion for justice so later thought it’d be a good idea to bond in several other ways.

Her involvement with Jamal flung her squarely into the crosshairs of the FBI, which, under the authoritarian fist of J. Edgar Hoover, was permitted to turn a person’s life upside-down, inside-out, usually with the most illegal practices available.

In Seberg, the FBI is represented by two men, neither of whom I am sure really existed. One is Carl Kowalski (Vince Vaughn), who is married to the job. The other is Jack Solomon (Jack O’Connell), an eager young agent whose sole purpose in the story is to begrudgingly follow Seberg, bug her house, snap unsolicited photographs and then curl up in guilt as he realises his actions have driven the poor girl insane.

Alas, none of the FBI stuff is particularly engrossing, nor does any of it ring true. If Jack is truly a fictional creation by the writers, his presence only muddles the moral complexity of Seberg’s characters and unacceptably exonerates the FBI. I don’t doubt that many agents under Hoover questioned his shady methods, but I do wonder if any of them would have done what Jack does in this movie, especially towards the end in a scene in Paris that is quite implausible.

No matter. The movie is called Seberg, and Kristen Stewart proves once again that Bella Swan was an anomaly. She is a gifted actress, turning in a performance that deserves a more finely tuned movie. Her rendition of Seberg is warm and intelligent, and she always seems to be aware of the power her beauty and sexuality exert on the men around her.

So why do I not feel like I know what the real Jean Seberg was like? Perhaps it’s because director Benedict Andrews relies too heavily on thriller clichés and not enough on human exploration. Seberg’s Wikipedia page describes it as a political thriller, which it is, and it’s a good one. What I want to know is, when does it stop being about the FBI and start being about Jean?

Seberg is available in Australian cinemas from 30 January 2020

Image courtesy of Icon Film Distribution

Movie Review – Dolittle

Robert Downey Jr. follows up his quality turn as Tony Stark with a lifeless rendition of a beloved children’s character.

Zachary Cruz-Tan

Dolittle is a sad excuse for a family adventure. It stars Robert Downey Jr. as Doctor John Dolittle, an eccentric physician in Victorian England who can converse with animals. Dolittle’s been played in the past by Rex Harrison and Eddie Murphy, both of whom attacked the role with great energy. This time, Downey Jr. seems curiously detached, as if he’d rather be somewhere else. I don’t blame him.

The movie is one gigantic CGI extravaganza. I wouldn’t be surprised if an artificial intelligence created the screenplay as well, since the dialogue is wildly anachronistic, and the plot sets off on cruise control right from the start to a climax so ridiculous I had to slap myself to believe it. And I still don’t.

John Dolittle, having lost the love of his life to a violent storm at sea, has locked himself away inside his vast animal sanctuary filled with all sorts of creatures. One day, a young girl (Carmel Laniado) arrives with news of Queen Victoria’s imminent demise at the hands of a fateful illness and demands Dolittle’s consultation. He determines the queen’s been poisoned, so sets sail on a perilous voyage to find the fabled Eden Tree, whose magical fruit is the only thing in the world that can save her.

So far so good, right? Wrong. This should’ve been a bright, challenging adventure for children, for whom the original books by Hugh Lofting were written and this movie was made. There is nothing pleasing, delightful or educational about this Dolittle. If kids like it at all it’d be because Stephen Gaghan directs it like a breakfast commercial, chopped into bite-sized pieces in the editing room. It’s brisk and full of energy, which kids will inhale without question. But once their parents begin to wonder if anyone from Victorian England ever really used the phrase “Snitches be gettin’ stitches, bro”, they’ll want their money back.

The more I reflect upon Dolittle the more problematic it becomes. I get that John can speak to animals, but how do the animals speak to each other? Do they all share in his power? As the story by Thomas Shepherd was finalised, did no one think his proposed climax was too outlandish to be included? And how is it possible that in this day and age we are still treated to unimpressive CGI not even rendered in the correct frame rate?

The answer to the last question is easy, and it presents Dolittle‘s greatest sin of all. To voice such a large collection of animated animals requires the most expensive cast one can assemble, including Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland, Craig Robinson, Ralph Fiennes, Selena Gomez and Marion Cotillard, all of whom are egregiously squandered of course, since their faces cannot be seen and their voices aren’t distinctive enough to be properly appreciated. It’s no wonder the film had no money left for anything else.

Dolittle is available in Australian cinemas from January 16 2020

Image (c) Universal Pictures 2020

Movie Review – 1917

As war movies grow and evolve, Sam Mendes delivers one simultaneously intimate and grand, assembled with technical superiority.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Zachary Cruz-Tan

How is a movie like this made? As I sat watching 1917, I started to marvel at the sheer impossibility of it all. The story travels great distances, weaves through trenches and around dozens of extras, glides over open waters and into confined spaces. It hops onto trucks, moves from day into night, involves hundreds more extras and is consistently peppered with gunshots and explosions. All the while the camera watches, mostly unbroken, and we wonder how long it must’ve taken to choreograph and rehearse the damn thing. This is an impressive movie.

It’s a year before the end of World War I. The Germans have curiously retreated, severing English communications and prompting a nearby English division to charge into an ambush. We meet Lance Corporals Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George MacKay) on the other side of No Man’s Land, who have been ordered to reach the division on foot to deliver a desperate ceasefire letter.

The movie, which adopts the structure of a one-shot picture but is cleverly broken up by hidden cuts, is a parable of urgency and determination in the face of self-preservation, drawn up in excellent visual effects and captured in camera movements so enormously intricate I’m convinced equipment had to be digitally removed in post.

The long continuous take is just the method, not the result. Most other one-shot movies would be content to get the camera from A to B in one piece in as few takes as possible. 1917 not only makes it to the end, but delivers some truly breath-taking imagery along the way. The kind photographers with tripods struggle to achieve. Roger Deakins, with his camera in perpetual motion, somehow manages to frame exactly what he wants when he wants it, without compromise. I’ve not witnessed anything quite like it.

1917 is directed by Sam Mendes, whose movies have been difficult to pin down. He doesn’t seem to toy with any particular theme except maybe the loss of innocence, as in American Beauty (1999), Road to Perdition (2002) and Revolutionary Road (2008). 1917 is the epitome of lost innocence; the joys of youth flung into the teeth of war.

Yet the strength of 1917 is also its curse. Because the camera refuses to cut, there are long periods where characters do nothing but walk from here to there, as they must. There’s a lot of downtime. The screenplay by Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns tries to fill the silence with anecdotes and thin exposition, but it doesn’t change the fact that people do lots and lots of walking while we have to watch like good sports.

It’s not so much a plot as a premise. It’s dialogue that merely services the action. But 1917, like Gravity (2013), is thunderous entertainment because it uses all the crafts of filmmaking in ways we hadn’t imagined, to enhance the simplest of human instincts into gripping drama. We follow Blake and Schofield on their horrendous journey, step by step, gunshot by gunshot, and we are filled with dread and apprehension in the best possible way. This is a movie that transforms itself into an experience.

1917 is available in Australian cinemas from 9 January 2020

Image © Universal Pictures

Movie Review – Cats

Tom Hooper’s queasy visuals and artistic oversight undo one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s more charming musicals.

⭐ ⭐
Zachary Cruz-Tan

I greatly admire Cats as a musical. I grew up with it. And I respect anyone who’s willing to dance night after night in a skin-tight animal outfit. Now that I’ve seen the movie, I don’t quite know what to make of it. No dramatic presentation of a musical like Cats could ever be considered “normal”. These are cats that look like humans, or rather humans that look like cats, choreographed to leap and twirl and occasionally behave like cats. But this movie is a uniquely unusual experience, not always in a fashion that is pleasant.

The most glaring issue is the CGI, which the movie seems to have bathed in. The result is not so much disappointing as distracting. The trailer for the movie received some hefty popular backlash on YouTube for the creepy digital effects on all the characters’ faces. The movie does nothing to improve matters. In fact, it compounds them, not least because in addition to the creepy felines, the same effects are applied to several mice and a whole contingent of dancing cockroaches. Yes, cockroaches. It doesn’t help that several of them are devoured by Rebel Wilson.

All this might’ve been easier to stomach if the effects had been seamless. Sadly, the CGI is so consistently inconsistent it draws unwanted attention to itself. It’s a movie whose visuals look frail on the surface then threaten to crumble spectacularly upon closer inspection. I suspect, if you go in to Cats without already possessing an affinity for the material, you might be so put off by the artificial appearance and bizarre movements of the cats that you might consider walking out before the first song has had its chance to be sung.

The plot, such as it is, is based on a collection of poems by T.S. Eliot. A young white cat, Victoria (Francesca Hayward, a principal dancer for the Royal Ballet in her first feature-length film), has been thrown out amongst the trash in a London alley, only to be salvaged by a tribe of “Jellicle” cats all vying to be chosen by Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench) for a new life, while the sinister Macavity (Idris Elba) schemes to ascend himself. What’s a Jellicle cat? There are songs that explain it, but their choruses are so difficult to discern you’d be better off reading the original poems.

All this adds up to a movie I seem to have not enjoyed very much. I hold some of the older renditions of the musical too close to my heart. This Cats is too digital and visually unsettling to really stack up. Tom Hooper, who committed musical suicide with Les Misérables (2012) by casting an actor who couldn’t sing, does it again by incidentally drawing focus away from the things that matter. Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s score holds up gallantly, and there are pockets of delightful moments that reminded me of the material’s potential. If you can look through the strangeness, you’d have a good time. Unfortunately, the strangeness is stubbornly impenetrable.

Cats is available in Australian cinemas from December 26 2019

Image © Universal Pictures 2019

Movie Review – Jojo Rabbit

A kooky comedy that pokes fun at the Third Reich, Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit mixes silliness with sincerity to great effect.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Rhys Pascoe

With his blonde hair, blue eyes and bedroom walls plastered with swastikas, little Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) is the poster boy for Nazi Germany. With his imaginary friend Adolf (Taika Waititi) by his side, Jojo aspires to do his country proud – despite the fact that, deep down, he’s actually a bit of a wuss.

One day, young Jojo learns that his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is harbouring Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie), a frail Jewish girl, in the walls of their family home. Jojo sees this as his opportunity to prove himself, by handing Elsa over to the authorities and earning some admiration amongst the older boys who taunt him. However, the two get to talking, and soon enough Jojo is learning everything he previously knew about Germany’s enemies was a lie.

With its picturesque European symmetry, twee cast and general irreverence, Jojo Rabbit is a Taika Waititi joint by way of Wes Anderson‘s distinct style. The collision of tone and imagery is a little jarring at first – an early scene sees Jojo skip merrily down the street, saluting everyone he passes and shouting ‘heil Hitler!’. Safe to say, Waititi’s satirical slant won’t be suited to all tastes, and the New Zealand director does wobble once or twice on the tonal tightrope.

Waititi – who plays Hitler in addition to serving as both writer and director – portrays the villainous dictator as a calamitous moron, who veers from sulky and silly to straight-up stupid. Sam Rockwell and Stephen Merchant also shine as drunken Captain Klenzendorf and Gestapo investigator Deertz respectively. But it’s Johansson who makes a compelling case for Best Supporting Actress, with a tender and wholesome performance buoyed by maternal warmth and whimsy.

The young child actors – Davis and Archie Yates, who looks like a miniature Nick Frost and plays Jojo’s world-weary best friend Yorki – are another highlight, with their often awkward line readings and verbose vocabularies adding to the film’s endearing goofiness.

However, Waititi is a filmmaker who understands that silliness can only get you so far. Underneath the slapstick, silly costumes and throwaway visual gags Jojo Rabbit is a sincere and serious film about the understated strength in putting aside our insecurities and being kind to one another.

The emotional wallop – you will know it when you feel it – sneaks up on you, with Waititi subtly adding to it in the background while you chuckle along at the surreal satire happening in the foreground. Not many filmmakers would take their Marvel clout and pour it into a satire of Nazi Germany, so Waititi’s ambition can be applauded as well.

Jojo Rabbit is available in Australian cinemas from 26 December 2019

Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Movie Review – Marriage Story

Noah Baumbach’s message is clear – whoever said war is hell has surely never been through a divorce.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Corey Hogan

After a long, mostly happy period together, 30-something-year-old couple Charlie (Adam Driver), a successful theatre director, and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson), his acting muse, find themselves facing difficulties in their marriage. Nicole sees new career offers outside New York as the right opportunity to file for divorce from Charlie, beginning a long, traumatic battle amidst an attempt to retain a sense of family for the sake of their son.

What is it about deteriorating marriages that makes them so fascinating to watch? It’s likely the sheer drama emitted by the situations and complications that come with falling out of love with someone. But when witnessing such a breakdown – when done well – it can tap into a complex emotional place and stir a hurricane of very intense feelings.

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha, While We’re Young) is a man who, for better or worse, truly, deeply understands the trauma of a divorce. He’s already explored his own parents’ separation earlier in his filmography with The Squid and the Whale, and since then he’s had the added heat of his own divorce from Jennifer Jason Leigh – from which Marriage Story takes a great deal of inspiration. Pile on the claims of countless breakups of friends all around him (of whom he interviewed, along with lawyers, judges and mediators) and it seems as though Baumbach is a magnet for and an expert on the distressing subject, which Marriage Story brilliantly proves in all its messy, warts-and-all glory.

The film opens with both Charlie and Nicole monologuing everything they love about the other – the endearing quirks, the gestures both grand and tiny, how each one makes up for the other’s shortcomings and the strong bond they hold with their son. Combined with a typically whimsical Randy Newman score, it immediately romanticizes their marriage in the way that most love stories do and fills us with optimism of the magic they share. Or at least did once.

As the fantasy fizzles, it’s revealed we’re in Nicole and Charlie’s couples’ therapy. The love letter to one another is just an activity set by their councillor that both are too tense to actually read aloud. And this is just the tip of their rapidly crumbling iceberg.

Throughout, the audience is made to feel like the child caught in the crossfire of their parent’s separation. We err back and forth between whose side we’re on, face the difficult understanding that a side probably shouldn’t be picked and feel the weight and struggle of searching for a middle ground.

Both characters are deeply flawed. Both show their true colours and at times rear their very ugly heads in heated yelling matches, but it’s astounding to witness the humanity grow in both. By the end, you just want both of them to find something approaching happiness, even if it seems like an impossible outcome. Driver and Johansson deliver career-best turns, and both, particularly Driver, are truly deserving of some serious awards recognition.

Baumbach has delivered perhaps the ultimate movie about divorce and boy does it make us feel all the massive emotions of one. Messy, infuriating, funny, sad and distressing, Marriage Story cuts, very, very deep.

Marriage Story is available on Netflix in Australia from December 6 2019

Image courtesy of Netflix Australia

Movie Review – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

It’s said you’re not a true Star Wars fan unless you hate Star Wars. If that’s true, then The Rise of Skywalker could be the new fan favourite.

⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan

A mysterious message from the long-presumed dead Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) echoes throughout the galaxy, bringing foreboding signs of the First Order’s mass retaliation and uprising that could lead to a Sith regime and vanquish the Rebels for good. Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) follow a trail of clues left by Luke Skywalker to track down and stop the Emperor, but new information about Rey’s past threatens the balance of the force. Meanwhile, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), now Supreme Leader of the First Order, is sought allegiance by Palpatine, but once again finds his loyalties tested.

There’s no better visual metaphor for the creative direction behind Disney’s Star Wars sequel trilogy than that of Kylo Ren’s Vader-reminiscent helmet. It was introduced in J.J. Abrams’ nostalgia fueled The Force Awakens, shattered to smithereens in Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, and finally, quite literally glued back together again for Abrams return in The Rise Of Skywalker. It reflects how Abrams has attempted to pick up the pieces and make it all resemble something meaningful with the supposed ‘final’ chapter of the Skywalker saga.

For the third time in many-a lifetime, we’re being led to believe this is the main Star Wars’ storyline coming full circle. With the burden of concluding nine films over 40 years (not counting spinoffs) and tying up all the broken threads, there’s no way Episode IX can live up to its gargantuan obligations, right?

Well yes, right, unfortunately. It’s easy to lay blame at the feet of Rian Johnson and The Last Jedi – probably the most divisive entry to a franchise ever. While its defenders will fight this, it is at least partially to blame for a lot of The Rise of Skywalker’s problems. Many fans took ire with TLJ for superfluous reasons, but whatever your opinion of it, there’s no denying that its purposefully left-field creative decisions backed the trilogy into a corner. Johnson, so determined to subvert expectations, ultimately tied up most of the lingering mysteries and story arcs in an unsatisfying manner. Bold, maybe, but not ideal for the second part of a trilogy.

Since the colossal fan backlash, Disney bringing Abrams back to the fold has reeked of damage control – a point now proven, as he spends a great deal of Rise backpedaling on a number of things set up and finalised last time. Since the big bad of the trilogy (Snoke) was killed off with a shrug in TLJ, Rise makes the rather desperate move of resurrecting Emperor Palpatine as its villain, purely for the sake of needing a recognisable evil for the climactic chapter.

With little in the way of real defining character traits, the central trio are severely lacking the chemistry of Luke, Han and Leia, or hell, even Anakin, Obi-Wan and Padme. Finn and Poe are again given nothing to do, while Rey’s hazy arc is attempted to be given some purpose by throwing in another twist that makes little sense. Where TFA had Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and TLJ had Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), TROS is the first time these new characters don’t have an OT stalwart to bounce off (save for a handful of recycled deleted scenes of Carrie Fisher’s Leia), and their absence is felt as the lack of real characterization of the newbies is made truly apparent.

The actors commendably give the poor writing their all, particularly Daisy Ridley, who does everything she can to make her un-enthrallingly overpowered Rey seem interesting. Adam Driver, whose Kylo Ren was once the new trilogy’s most fascinating addition, is now neutered and tragically sidelined. He deserves much better, but at least tries to deliver an admirable send-off.

There are a few positives at least, like the continuation of the new movies’ stunning visual flair. The lightsaber duel amidst the crashing waves of a water planet is very impressive. Billy Dee Williams‘ return as Lando Calrissian is brief but enjoyable, and there’s approximately one or two gleeful moments in the final battle that – for a fraction of a second – feel reminiscent of the joyous climaxes of older chapters. But the oppressively dark tone constantly reminds us that we’re a long way from those. Finally, we conclude on several baffling decisions that outdo even the most contested with ones made in The Last Jedi – it’s doubtful that unintentionally hilarious is what J.J. was going for.

Maybe Rian Johnson isn’t so much to blame. He was simply applying his skills to the chapter he was given and doing what he thought was intriguing with the box of mysteries set up by Abrams. Perhaps one day fans will forgive him for this. Maybe a trilogy helmed entirely by Abrams, or entirely by Johnson would have paid off with more consistency and gratification, but now we can only wonder what could have been.

It was certainly brave of Disney to experiment with a Marvel-esque universe expansion of one of the biggest intellectual properties on the planet, but let’s hope they take some time and practice some Jedi training before they attempt to hyperdrive us back into that galaxy far, far away.

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is available in Australian cinemas from 19 December 2019

Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Movie Review – Glass

Glass unites the threads of Unbreakable and Split but fails to do anything truly interesting with them.

⭐ ⭐
Zachary Cruz-Tan  

Glass is a movie that takes itself very, very seriously. In fact, it’s so serious I wanted to grab its face and shove a hanger into its mouth. It is the third part of M. Night Shyamalan’s superhero trilogy that began in 2000 with Unbreakable and continued with Split in 2016. It unites the casts of both movies and throws them together for a super serious climactic showdown, which manages to simultaneously stir our intrigue and bore us to death.

James McAvoy returns as Kevin, the abused zookeeper from Split who manifests dozens of different personalities, the vilest of which is an animalistic reckoner called The Beast. Samuel L. Jackson is Elijah, who, with Bruce Willis’ David Dunn, has been quiet for eighteen years until, of course, the events of this movie. All three men are apprehended and confined to an insane asylum, where Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) is meant to convince them their powers aren’t scientifically possible.

The first two-thirds are well made and use the movie’s sombre mood to good effect. The orderlies march about the hospital, interacting with what I’m assuming are their only three patients. Dr. Staple observes from a distance. And Shyamalan uses the claustrophobia of his location to slowly build suspense the only way he knows how.

We start to get a feel for these characters, particularly Kevin, who is by far the most interesting of the three. He gives McAvoy the opportunity to try on a gazillion different accents and mannerisms as he swaps from a 9-year-old boy to a pair of Irish sisters, from a bro with a southern drawl to a mistress with a stick up her bum, like one of those quick-change illusionists. And there is no doubt McAvoy looks equally convincing topless or in a frumpy old dress.

However, everyone else kind of gets lost in the sternness of the plot. I feel like there’s much we could learn about David Dunn’s powers and morals, or why Elijah chooses to do what he does, but Glass darts along so single-mindedly that it ends up swallowing its own ambition.

It also succumbs to questionable writing, as when two suspects stroll past an oblivious security guard, or when a shady character proclaims her job description to the very people who appointed her to that job. I liked the creation of the superheroes and the zeal with which McAvoy chews his scenery, but really, the rest is suspect, and way too serious.

Glass is available in Australian cinemas from January 17

Image (c) Universal Pictures 2019