Archives For Film reviews

Keanu (2016)

July 10, 2017 — Leave a comment

When photographer Rell (Jordan Peele) is dumped by his girlfriend, his self-pity party is immediately cancelled when a stray kitten turns up at his door. Taking it and calling it Keanu, Rell finds a new lease of life in his furry companion. However, returning from home after a night at the pictures with his friend Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key), Rell finds his house ransacked and, more importantly, Keanu missing. And so begins the two friends’ journey into the darker side of town to get the little kitty back which sees them cross paths with murderers, gangbangers and Anna Faris.

Directed by Peter Atencio, who headed up all the episodes of the sketch show Key and PeeleKeanu follows a similar path to films such as Pineapple Express and Hot Fuzz, where every day folk get caught up life-threatening situations. Cue lots of screaming, shouting and wondering how to use handguns.

What makes this film stand out from its peers is how dark the film goes so quickly. Starting off with a bloody shootout in an abandoned church, Keanu contains a surprising amount of violence. Take the scene where, after being mistaken for a couple of assassins, Rell and Clarence find themselves caught up in a drug deal that quickly turns into a bloodbath. The scene would be truly shocking if it wasn’t balanced out by Clarence teaching a bunch of gang members about the virtues of George Michael’s Faith.

It’s this dichotomy that works so well in Keanu’s favour; the absurdity of these two middle class men completely out of their comfort zone. Typical of the humour found in their sketch show, Key and Peele deftly switch between jokes about racial politics and the absurdity of action movie tropes. The jokes might not always stick, but there’s always the promise of another one just around the corner.

If you’re a fan of their show or just having a good time in general, then Keanu is certainly one to check out. A laugh out loud comedy, it’s a shame that, at the time of writing this, Keanu didn’t receive a better release in Australia before been shoved straight onto DVD and digital download.

Recovery (2016)

July 9, 2017 — Leave a comment

We’ve all become quite dependent on smartphones, haven’t we? Look at the anger the public is willing to hurl at Apple after their recent decision to go cold turkey with headphone jacks; there’s probably still someone crying about it now. Smartphones are our gatekeepers to our social lives. If they don’t work then how are we supposed to get on Facebook and twitter, let alone make a simple phonecall to tell people we’re alive! The aforementioned life drainers play an uncredited part in Recovery, a new horror film by Darrall Wheat (Slumber).

On the eve before her high school graduation, Jessie (Kirby Bliss Blanton) discovers through Facebook that her boyfriend is cheating on her. Looking to get over him, she plans a night on the town with smooth dude Logan (Samuel Larsen), irritant little brother Miles (Alex Shaffer) and brand new friend Kim (Rachel DiPillo). When Kim goes missing with Jessie’s phone, the use of a ‘find my phone’ app helps the remaining friends track her down. Unfortunately, it also puts them in the crosshairs of a murderous family intent on doing incredibly nasty things to each of them.

Recovery has that 90s teen sheen to it that will appeal to fans of the Scream franchise. Whilst the plot is pretty straight forward – hunt, find kill, repeat – it still manages to tear you rug from under you. Perhaps it’s because we think we’re all so knowing when it comes to slashers, when one tries a something a little old school we don’t end up seeing the wood for the trees. We expect there to be a grandiose revelation where the killer’s motives are exposed for all to see! Either way, this critic didn’t see the twist until the last second.

And yes, whilst it certainly might not be the most revolutionary film in the horror genre, there’s enough here to guarantee that  is liable to be a staple of midnight screenings at sleepovers. After all, what’s a little screaming amongst friends?

This review previously appeared on earlybirdfilm.com.

The Beaver Trilogy is an unusual beast. Directed by Trent Harris it is, as the title may suggest, a trilogy of short films. Filmed over the course of six years, each film centres on Olivia Newton-John impersonator and seeker of fame, Groovin’ Gary who Harris met whilst trying out his brand new colour news camera back in the 70s.

The first short introduces us to Groovin’ Gary via the footage filmed by Harris. Gary is a word a second kind of guy, slipping from one impression to the next. His desire to be famous spills out of every nervous twitch and glance at the camera. The fact that he seems so nervous makes you wonder whether he truly has what it takes, or whether he’s just so excitable that he sees a spur of the moment interview in a car park as his big break. Later, Harris travels to Beaver, Utah to see Gary perform as an Olivia Newton-John tribute act in a talent contest. It’s here we see how serious Gary is in his pursuit to be famous.

The next two thirds are two short films, both directed by Trent Harris, that take the original premise of the preceding ‘documentary’ into two different directions. The Beaver Kid 2 is a dramatic interpretation starring Sean Penn as Groovin’ Larry. Whilst Crispin Glover dons the moniker Groovin’ Larry in the comedy, The Orkly Kid.

The Beaver Trilogy is more of an art house project than a true feature film, and all three movies vary in quality; literally and figuratively. As it has never had an official release due to licensing problems, the main selling point for some will be seeing Crispin Glover and Sean Penn for drag.

For me, there’s something morbid about it all. In a sense, Groovin’ Gary’s desire to be famous has come to fruition through the film, but it seems to be at the expense of his modesty. I’m genuinely interested to know what old Gary thinks of this. And whilst I can protest the point of this film, I’m half sure that if Gary does know about this film, then he’s probably happy with the results. After all, it’s not everyone who gets Sean Penn to play them in a film.

Arthur (2011)

July 8, 2017 — Leave a comment

Arthur is not as bad as the critics make out. In fact, some of the criticisms I’ve read previously suggest a lot of the opinions are knee-jerk reactions to a remake of a ‘classic’. However, there are some genuine laughs to be had from our drunk protagonist stumbling between the moon and New York City. I know it’s crazy, but it’s true. (See what I did there…)

The best scenes seem to be those where Russell Brand, who plays the titular Arthur, has been allowed to run away with the script and, as a result, breathe life into Arthur. His mistrusting rant at a docile horse and his childlike reaction to being involved in a police chase stick out as being examples of how Brand can confidently play innocent and friendly. The problem is that these scenes of Arthur the man-child are bookended with scenes of Arthur the sleazy Lothario. All men are created with two sides to their personality, but the extremes shown here suggest that Arthur could be more schizophrenic than alcoholic. One minute driving around in the Batmobile; the next, talking about how he likes his women flexible. It just doesn’t work.

The inconsistency in Arthur’s character isn’t just found there. We are constantly reminded by others in the film that Arthur is a borderline genius and yet this is the man who has never seen spaghetti hoops and doesn’t understand how to hail a taxi or what email is. If he’s so intelligent, how come modern life seems to have passed him by.

The biggest problem with Arthur is how quickly it runs out of steam after the first act is over. Nothing happens for a very long time and no amount of Brand falling over furniture or gurning changes that fact. A sub-plot involving him sobering up whilst he looks after a sick Helen Mirren is all very well and natural in a film about alcohol, but it adds nothing to anything. When it’s all over you realise your mind has drifted and you’re counting the tiles on the ceiling.

I repeat, Arthur is not a bad film, but it’s not as zany and comedic as it wants to be.

Israeli Writing/Directing team, Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, have provided in this, their second feature, a lavish buffet of dark treats that punctures the concept of machismo and questions whether the punishment can ever suitably fit the crime.

On a bright day in Israel, a Religious Education teacher is kidnapped by two men: one is the father of a recently murdered child and the other a dirty cop looking to solve a spate of similar atrocities. Hidden in the basement of a country cottage and believing themselves to have their man, they devise ways to torture a confession out of their hostage.

The subject matter is bleak, but Big Bad Wolves also manages to be perversely funny. Our torturers take time out from breaking fingers, so one can take a call from their abrasive and interfering mother. This constant switch and bait of the genre could easily derail everything. However, in the hands of Keshales and Paushado, it’s an act of plate spinning that really pays off. The film’s humour sharpens the nastiness before and after rather than providing a welcome reprieve.

Tight scripting, solid performances and a killer ending add up to a film that proves genre filmmaking isn’t limited to the US and Australia.

This review previously appeared on earlybirdfilm.com.