As I jump back into completing my Masters in Media this year I want to update this blog more consistently. As I watch so many movies and television I often don’t have time to post about every single one so I will now make a monthly update of everything I’ve been watching from television to cinema.
Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody (2022)
Excellent performance from Naomi Ackie as Whitney Houston. Unfortunately the film is just a greatest hits collection of her songs. All the real drama is fluffed over with hope being the main theme pushed throughout the film. Everyone comes out looking good from Stanley Gucci’s Clive Davis to Ashton Sanders Bobby Brown. Her gay past is glossed over and her fathers betrayal is also glossed over. This film could’ve been a lot stronger. Better off listening to the real Whitney’s greatest hits in your car or walking the dog on your AirPods.
Avatar: The Way of Water (2022)
James Cameron’s long awaited sequel to 2009’s biggest film ‘Avatar’. Cameron wisely doesn’t repeat the plot of the original but moves forward exploring the world of Pandora and beyond. Sixteen years after the Na’vi repelled the invasion of Pandora, Jake Sully (played again by gruff Australian Sam Worthington) lives as chief of the Omatikaya clan peacefully and prosperous, and raises a family with Neytiri (the beautiful and exotic Zoe Saldaña), which includes sons Neteyam and Lo’ak, daughter Tuk, and adopted children Kiri (born from Grace Augustine’s inert avatar) and Spider, the Pandora-born human son of the late Colonel Miles Quaritch.
Visually the film is amazing. I would recommend seeing it in IMAX 3D or Gold Class 3D if you can. This is a film where you are transported to another world and you just don’t want to leave. Every frame is a painting in Pandora. The luscious beauty of the Pandoran forest to the amazing water world of Awa’atlu, a Metkayina Clan village off the coast of the Eastern Sea. Every creature and landscape is beautifully realised and portrayed with Cameron’s eye for majesty. The film’s characters and dialogue can be clunky at times which is standard for a James Cameron film however with so much action and beauty you can overlook it. I think this film is better than the original and really expands the world to new possibilities and could be the new Star Wars or Lord of the Rings franchise for its science-fiction fantasy storytelling and as an amazing new world to watch on screen. I can’t wait for more.
Don’t Worry Darling (2022)
It’s classic Twilight Zone meets Mad Men in this disturbing commentary on post-covid lifestyles. The film has exciting performances from Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Chris Pine, Olivia Wilde, Kiki Layne and Gemma Chan who drive the film into a more interesting narrative. The film revolves around a 1950s housewife living with her husband in a utopian experimental community. Alice (get the reference?), played by Florence Pugh begins to worry that her husband’s glamorous company could be hiding disturbing secrets. Overall the film is fun to watch with the mysteries leaving you guessing however it could have been a lot better and the climax ultimately fails. Perhaps a different director could have pushed this into classic territory.
True Lies (1994)
After enjoying Avatar so much I have gone back to check out James Cameron’s previous films. This popped up on Disney Plus and I hadn’t seen it since I was a kid. The film holds up as one of the better Arnold Schwarznegger 90’s action spectacles. Arnie stars as a James Bond-esque undercover spy who is lying to his wife and daughter about what he really does. Jamie Lee Curtis plays his wife who is tired of her boring life and seeks adventure. The middle-eastern villains don’t quite hold up in this post-9/11 world however if you enjoy it for it’s broad comedy and amazing set pieces this is a fun night at home.
Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile (2022)
As the school holidays come and go the cinemas need family fare to get the kids into their local Village or Hoyts cinema. This family film had potential with an interesting concept and great cast. However it seems the writers, producers and director all gave up halfway through and just went to collect their checks because the plot, character motivations, direction and overall narrative don’t make any sense and just jump from scene to scene with no coherent narrative. I was lost about ten minutes into it which is a shame because this could have been a fun musical for the children. Not recommended.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022)
The other holiday family film is actually pretty great. A spin-off from the Shrek franchise, this film continues the parodied world of Fairytales, this one focusing on Puss in Boots (voiced by Antonio Banderas). He is on a quest to get a wish for nine more lives as his adventurous life is about to run out. Other fairy tale characters included are Goldilocks and the Three Bears and Jack Horner (voiced hilariously by John Mulaney). The film is fun from beginning to end and works for both parents and children. Recommend.
Daddy Day Care (2003)
This family friendly feature is available on Netflix at the moment and is an easy watch for a lazy Sunday afternoon. Eddie Murphy, Jeff Garlin and Steve Zahn are fun as corporate business men who are forced to run a daycare when they are fired from their jobs. This film is fun for the family but isn’t memorable enough to rank with Eddie’s other better family features such as Shrek or The Nutty Professor.
Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre (2023)
A pretty average heist movie starring Jason Statham and directed by Guy Ritchie. Aubrey Plaza and Hugh Grant shine but Josh Hartnett is miscast as a Leonardo DiCaprio-esque movie star. The film would have been a lot better and funnier with a real movie star however overall it was still a fun time at the movies if you enjoy watching Statham kick ass!
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
The iconic family film based on Roald Dahl’s crazy book. Gene Wilder is fabulous as Willy Wonka the deranged candy store owner who allows five children to explore his factory of wonders. It has a 70s charm that the remake doesn’t have however I prefer Tim Burton’s vision.
Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022)
Who are you? What life could you have lived? In the possibility of multi-dimensions we can see what life could have brought us if we went down a different path. This is the main plot of Everything Everywhere All At Once and it is brilliant, innovative and completely different from any other film from the past few years. It reminds me of Being John Malkovich or The Matrix or Mad Max: Fury Road, the type of film so original and innovative that it will be studied in Media class and referred to for a long time. It is a really special film. It’s filled with fantastic performances and amazing visuals. The climax is a bit bloated and nearly crosses the line with the insanity but it’s still a powerful picture that will be remembered. Michelle Yeoh gives a tour de force performance as an ordinary Asian laundry manager who works with her husband Waymond (played by the excellent Ke Huy Quan) and needs to plan a birthday for her father (James Hong), deal with her daughter, Joy (another amazing performance from Stephanie Hsu) and negotiate with an angry tax accountant (hilariously portrayed by the great Jamie Lee Curtis). The film uses this simple scenario to jump into different universes and explore what life is all about. Dealing with relationships, marriage, parenthood and the road not taken. Amazing film that is already getting award buzz.
The Piano (1993)
New Zealand director Jane Campion’s visually stunning 90s art house and Oscar sensation is a great piece of Australian/New Zealand cinema history. Starring Holly Hunter as a mute lady with a daughter who translates for her, an amazing performance from Anna Pacquin. She arrives as a settler in New Zealand which has just been occupied by the English. It’s a period film which shows the struggle of the English settlement over New Zealand and the effect on the land and its indigenous natives. The film is beautiful visually with the ocean dominating the landscape. Sam Neil and Harvey Keitel also star.
The Portrait of a Lady (1996)
Jane Campion’s follow up to The Piano is a slow period drama which isn’t as strong or interesting as The Piano. Another period drama with Nicole Kidman stars as an American heiress and free thinker who travels to Europe to find herself. Very slow paced and not as interesting as her other works.
Holy Smoke (1999)
A sweaty and crazy film from Jane Campion. Starring Kate Winslett as a cult follower who needs to be deprogramed by a specialist played by the awesome Harvey Keitel. The film becomes a battle of the sexes as Winslett’s character is not so easy to manipulate. An interesting and fun Australian film from the late 90s that is somewhat forgotten in the arthouse circle as 1999 was such a massive year for arthouse breakouts.
Avatar: The Extended Cut (2009)
Watching the original in Imax in 2009 I didn’t really get on board with this film. Everyone was blown away but I thought it was a pretty standard narrative with a basic plot and characters. However after watching the sequel and enjoying it so much I gave the extended edition on Blu Ray a shot. I’m glad I did because the film looks amazing in high definition and the added scenes add more to the world of Pandora and gives more pathos to the characters and ultimately tells a better story than the simple one I watched in 2009. This film builds on the lore and mythology that Cameron is creating and it now stands with George Lucas’s science-fiction fantasy world of Star Wars as one of the great fantasy worlds in pop culture.
Breaking Bad Season 1 (2008)
Our introduction to Walter White and Jesse Pinkman iconically played by Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul in this crime drama which would go on to become one of the best shows of the 21st century.
Breaking Bad Season 2 (2009)
The season that began building up to the show’s brilliance. Introducing Saul Goodman, Gus Fring, Jane Margolis and Mike Erhmantraut. The series leant into Walt’s battle between good and evil. Being a good husband and father or an evil drug kingpin. We know who wins but it’s great to see the fight. Jesse has an excellent arc with his relationship with Jane played by the excellent Krysten Ritter. All performances are top notch especially Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul and Bob Odenkirk.
Breaking Bad Season 3 (2010)
The season starts off pretty slow with no real direction. Walt is abandoned by Skylar and living in a hotel not cooking. Jesse is in recovery and depressed over Jane. Gus and Saul try to get Walt back to cook and the twin Mexican brothers threaten to kill both Walt and Hank. It isn’t until episode seven; One Minute, that the tension begins to rise again up onto the incredible finale. Still one of the best acted, directed and shot television shows of the 2000s. Iconic television.
The White Lotus (2022)
The odd anthology drama which deals with identity, sex, relationships and families this season is set in Italy. Italy is amazingly shot and every frame looks beautiful. Jennifer Coolidge’s Tanya McQuaid is the only returning character from season one. As she was such a scene stealer she is a welcome presence in season two. Other characters include Dominic Di Grasso (played by the excellent Michael Imperioli) as an Italian-American father whose wife has left him due to his constant cheating. He is joined by his father (hilariously portrayed by F. Murray Abraham) and his son, Albie (played by Adam DiMarco in a great performance) as his shy, socially awkward but eager son. They all get involved with two hookers, Lucia and Mia. Also we have Cameron and Daphne Sullivan (played by Theo James and Meghann Fahy), a vain and rich white couple from America who have brought along their friends, Ethan and Harper Spiller (played by Will Sharpe and the superb Aubrey Plaza). We also have the returning Tanya McQuoid-Hunt (played by the irreplaceable Jennifer Coolidge) who is still struggling with her relationships, this time with her husband, Greg (played by the hapless Jon Gries) and her unfortunate assistant, Portia (played by the luminous, Haley Lu Richardson). All of them get entangled in another murder mystery.