YOF2017 #2 | Where to Invade Next (2016)

With the deadline looming for the Fake Geeks teams to submit our lists for Top 15 films of 2016 (so we can populate a combined Top 20 list), I’ve been using every medium possible to catch up. In this case, I used my trusty Lovefilm account to grab this doc from last summer.

The original review was posted at Fake Geeks, but you can read it in full below.


Where to Invade Next poster.pngDirected by | Michael Moore
Produced by | Carl Deal, Tia Lessin, Michael Moore
Written by | Michael Moore
Starring / Narrated by | Michael Moore
Run Time | 120 minutes
Certificate | 15

Plot |  Michael Moore goes on a fact finding mission to discover which policies would benefit the United States, were they to adopt them.

Review | Michael Moore documentaries can be more than a little hit or miss. He can make moving pieces (Bowling for Columbine), as well as films that lift a lid on profit-driven governmental policies (Sicko). He can also make sensationalistic, conspiracy-theory guff (Fahrenheit 911). Though lighter in tone to all those previously mentioned, Where to Invade Next thankfully harkens back to his work on Sicko more than anything else.

Where to Invade Next img 2.jpg

For those that remember his 2007 feature on the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, you may recall a scene where he goes to France and asks questions of how the system works there. We discover that their higher tax rates take care of a number of issues, which expands past the limits of healthcare briefly to discuss paid leave for life events (such as your Honeymoon or moving house). Where to Invade Next can be boiled down to being a near two hour version of this scene, focussing on many facets of every-day life.

After a mildly humorous, fictional set-up (he explains that the Government has asked his opinion on where they should invade next), Moore treks across to Europe and Northern Africa with the idea of pilfering any ideas he comes across that could be of benefit to the US of A.

Where to Invade Next img 3.jpg

While Moore’s film making style and overt political leanings are never going to win over staunchy conservative right-wingers, Where to Invade Next is a nonetheless entertaining film, and some of the things he discovers about each of the countries he visits is genuinely surprising (the amount of paid annual leave Italians get may raise an eyebrow, as may Norway’s prison system, Slovenia’s free University education or Portugal’s stance on drug possession).

In a departure from many of his other releases, Moore retains a relatively light tone throughout and even offers a surprisingly upbeat outlook come the conclusion. This helps elevate Where to Invade Next towards the better end of ‘good’.


The Verdict | Moore’s refreshingly upbeat and light tone helps make Where to Invade Next an interesting and entertaining documentary.

4/5


YOF2017 #1 | Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)

Year of Film is dead!
Long live Year of Film 2017!

With the new year, I have decided to reboot my Year of Film blogsperiment. It retains the same idea as before – I give my thoughts on every feature film I see over the period of a year. In some cases, like this one, I will have previously published the article as a review (or part of one) over at Fake Geeks. Other times, I’ll just be putting up my thoughts directly here.

To kick things off, I watched Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!!. I’ve been a fan of his for a while, and the Before trilogy is some of my favourite films of all time.

Below is the brief review I wrote for Fake Geeks:


Everybody Wants Some poster.pngDirected by | Richard Linklater
Produced by | Megan Ellison, Richard Linklater, Ginger Sledge
Written by | Richard Linklater
Starring | Blake Jenner, Zoey Deutch, Ryan Guzman, Tyler Hoechlin, Glen Powell, Wyatt Russell
Run Time | 116 minutes
Certificate | 15

Plot |  Baseball pitcher Jake (Blake Jenner) has arrived at his frat house, just a few days prior to starting college as a freshmen. We follow his exploits as he bonds with the new housemates.

Review | For anyone unfamiliar with Richard Linklater’s work, Everybody Wants Some!! may seem a little odd, as it is a film with exceptionally little by the way of conventional plot. However, those more familiar with the auteur’s previous works will know that Linklater is more interested in the interactions between people, then of a centralised narrative. This is very much the case with Everybody Wants Some!!, which simply shows us a three day period in the life of Jake Bradford.

Helping Bradford to settle in are his new team-mates: Finnegan (Glen Powell), Roper (Ryan Guzman) McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin), Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), Plummer (Temple Baker), Douglas (J. Quinto Johnson), Beuter (Will Brittain), Jay (Juston Street), Coma (Forrest Vickery), Brumley (Tanner Kalina), Nesbit (Austin Amelio), and Justin (Michael Monsour).

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While a large principle cast inevitably leads to some being featured more than others, the acting is pretty good across the board. Jenner is likeable in the lead role, and Powell, Russell and Amelio’s turns are particularly memorable in their own ways – as is Zoey Duetch as the love interest Beverly.

The twelve guys spend their last few days of freedom drinking, partying, getting high and chasing girls – as well as having the odd intellectual conversation. While this might mostly sound like a recipe for disaster in the vein of many a screwball, lechy hollywood comedy, this really isn’t the case. Yes, the guys are out for a good time, but the film treads a line closer to romanticised nostalgia.

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There is a genuine warmth to the script and the characters are played with such fresh faced honesty, that you can’t help but just smile at the antics of this cheeky dozen. An early scene sees five of them are cruising the streets on a sunny summer’s afternoon looking for girls, only for it to turn into a Wayne’s World style singalong to Rapper’s Delight. It’s fun, a bit daft and genuinely entertaining – which is pretty much a perfect way to sum up Everybody Wants Some!!.


The Verdict | A genuinely warm, meandering piece of nostalgia that will leave you with a smile on your face.

4/5


 

New Year’s Resolutions – Music & Film

Happy new year!

Throughout 2016 I set myself a number of tasks and resolutions relating to both music and film.

Music wise, I set my self the goal of averaging a minumum of two albums per month that I’d not listened to before (one from 2016 and one pre-dating 2016). Additionally, I would listen to the entire discography of an individual band each month.

Film wise, I started my Year of Film series. I started it in March sometime to help me keep track of everything I’ve seen (regardless of whether it was from this year or not) and to write a little about it.

In the music front, I managed to pretty much stick to the plan, even squeezing in some extra albums at the back end of the year. It was also great to check out the discographies of (most) of the bands I went for. So, for 2017, I’ll be doing the same.

On the film front, while I managed to mostly keep a track of things, I did slack off in the back half of the year (hence the fewer updates with an increasing number of entires per update). I’ve decided to abandon my initial YOF list and start afresh with a YOF2017 list, running it from 1st Jan – 31st Dec to bring it in line with my musical resolutions too.

With all that in mind, I am open to suggestions for which band to cover for the January disography. Any and all suggetions are welcome, though my loose ground rules still apply – no more than 6 albums, and all have to be on Spotify.

P.s. For those interested, the albums I rated the highest from this year were:

2016 Releases
Kvelertak – “Nattesferd”
Opeth – “Sorceress”
SubRosa – “For This We Fought The Battle of Ages.”

Pre-2016 Releases
Mastodon – “The Hunter”
The Darkness – “Permission to Land”
Rise Against – “Appeal to Reason”
*Shels – “Sea of the Dying Dhow”

I would give all of the above 4.5 / 5 (except The Hunter, which gets the perfect 5).

YOF #55-66 | Midnight Special, The Survivalist, Dog Day Afternoon, Trash Humpers, ARQ, The Propaganda Game, Inferno, Hush, Goodnight Mommy, Doctor Strange, The Invitation, The Dead Zone

Wow, it’s been a while since posted about the Year of Film list! As such here’s a whopper of a update.

#55
Midnight Special
Blu Ray

This is another example of too many films I want to see coming out at the cinema at the same time. In the end, I picked this up on blu-ray after re-reading the strong reviews.

Briefly, Midnight Special is about a boy who has some kind of supernatural abilities, and he is being hunted down by both the the US government, as well as some kind of cult.

I thought it was a pretty enjoyable film. Cursiously, you sort of pick things up with them already on the run, and the audience is left to piece together bits of the story as the they go.

The acting is pretty solid throughout. The only gripe some may have is that, it is a little understated to be a thriller (it’s marketed more as a mystery, which is sort of more accurate). [3.5]

#56
The Survivalist
Blu Ray

You can read my review of The Survivalist over at Fake Geeks. [4]

#57
Dog Day Afternoon
DVD

I’ve had the DVD for a fair while now, and never gotten around to watching it. Thankfully, I have now rectified this.

Dog Day Afternoon is based on true events. When a bank robbery goes awry, the couple of perpetrators end up finding themselves int an impromptu hostage situation.

The tone is an odd one – it’s sort of played off as a black comedy – but it works really well. Al Pacino is brilliant (and the support cast is good too). A cracking film that I’d heartily recommend. [4.5]

#58
Trash Humpers
DVD

According to wikipedia, Trash Humpers is an “experimental black comedy-drama horror”. What I can tell you is, it is atrocious and probably the worst film I’ve ever seen.

It’s meant to play like an old VHS cassette that you may have found discarded. And, well, I’ll give ’em credit – it does. However, it isn’t a compelling film, and the non-/anti- narrative structure makes it difficult to follow or care. [0]

#59
ARQ
Netflix

You can read my review fo ARQ at Fake Geeks. [4]

#59
The Propaganda Game
Netflix

You can read my review of The Propaganda Game at Fake Geeks. [3.5]

#60
Inferno
Cinema

You can read my review of Inferno at Fake Geeks. [3]

#61
Hush
Netflix

You can read my review of Hush at Fake Geeks. [4]

#62
Goodnight Mommy
Amazon Prime

You can rea my review of Goodnight Mommy at Fake Geeks. [4.5]

#63
Doctor Strange
Cinema (IMAX 3D)

The latest Marvel Studios entry is definitely one of their better offerings. Whilst not quite in the realm of Guardians of the Galaxy or Winter Soldier, there’s certainly a good argument to be made for it being the leader of the chasing pack.

The cast is really good; it’s probably the strongest support cast of any Marvel film to date. The story is solid, as is the script, and the visual effects are sublime (definitely go and watch this in IMAX 3D if you have the opportunity).

There’s only a few niggles. Odd bits of humour seem t ohave been crowbarred in (it mostly works, but there are a few scenes where the lines could have been delivered in a more serious tone). Also, while Rachel McAdams’ character shows some promise, she’s a little too absent from the back end of the film for my liking. Still, she gets quite a bit from the role. [4]

#64
The Invitation
Netflix

You can read my review of The Invitation at Fake Geeks. [4]

#65
The Dead Zone
DVD

You can read my review of The Dead Zone at Fake Geeks. [4]

YOF #50-54 | Eye in the Sky, London to Brighton, A Beautiful Mind, Zootropolis, Kubo and the Two Strings

I’ve seen some flipping good films lately…

#50
Eye in the Sky
Blu Ray

You can read my review of Eye in the Sky over at Fake Geeks. [4]

#51
London to Brighton
DVD

I was lent this DVD years ago but only just recently gotten around to watching it. For those who don’t know it, it is a British crime thriller from 2006. It follows the story of Kelly (Lorraine Stanley) and Joanne (Georgia Groome) who on the run from some pretty despicable London mobsters.

It’s a great little film that never outstays it’s welcome (it’s only 80 odd minute and the pacing is spot on). The acting is impressive and naturalistic, and I liked how the gangsters weren’t the stereotypical kind seen in thing like Lock, Stock… etc. [4]

#52
A Beautiful Mind
DVD

Another film that was lent to me some time ago that I’ve only just gotten around to watching. How did I manage to go the best part of 15 years without seeing this amazing film?

Pretty much everything is spot on, and Russell Crowe’s performance is near-flawless. [5]

#53
Zootropolis
Blu Ray via Lovefilm

On the whole, a really enjoyable animation from Disney. While the social commentary was a little on the nose at times, it was nice that there was a relatively interesting and relevant subtext to what is otherwise kids entertainment. It held my attention throughout, and had a handful of hilarious gags (particularly in the final third). A strong entry, on another year, this could have been in contention for animation of the year… [4]

#54
Kubo and the Two Strings
Cinema

Simon pretty much hit the nail on the head with his lengthy review over at Fake Geeks. I liked that this was more like a folktale than a run-of-the-mill schmaltz fest that animations sometimes end up as. All of the actions had realistic (in terms of the narrative) consequences. The voice acting is spot on, the animation is beautiful, the pacing is near-perfect (as is the tone). Laika seemed to have carved a niche for themselves, sitting somewhere on the spectrum in between Ghibli and Disney (with a dash of Tim Burton lurking nearby), and are all the better for it. The animation of the year, and a genuine film of the year contender. [4.5]

 

YOF #46 – 49 | Kiki’s Delivery Service, The Shallows, A Bigger Splash, Hell or High Water

#46
Kiki’s Delivery Service
Blu Ray

After being very impressed with The Tale of Princess Kaguya, I resolved to make my way through the entire Studio Ghibli filmography over time. Up to this point, I have also seen Spirited AwayWhen Marnie Was There as well as the first half of Ponyo.

I recently purchased blu-rays of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (not an official release, I know, but I think it makes sense to be included), Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Grave of the Fireflies and My Neighbor Totoro. But before my girlfriend and I make our way through those, my fellow Geeketeer Mike kindly lent me Kiki’s Delivery Service for me to check out. It’s one of his favourites.

The plot is pretty simple – Kiki is a trainee witch, and this is a coming-of-age tale about her finding her way in the wide world. Following familial tradition, she strikes out on her own at age thirteen with just her talking cat jiji for company. Trainee witches are expected to find their place in the world as part of their maturation, and the title refers to the line of business Kiki ends up in. The story chronicles the ups-and-downs she experiences.

Some may find it a little lightweight, but I don’t see that as a negative attribute. The film is shockingly and pleasantly simple, written well and paced to near perfection. [4]

 

Updated League Table of Ghibli:
01. The Tale of Princess Kaguya
02. Kiki’s Delivery Service
03. When Marnie Was There
04. Spirited Away
05. Ponyo

 

#47
The Shallows
Cinema

You can read my review of this at Fake Geeks. [3.5]

 

#48
A Bigger Splash
Blue Ray via Lovefilm

It is a remake of 1969 Italian-French film La Piscine and, having read up on it, it seems very similar in theme and execution. The plot basically revolves around Marianne (Tilda Swinton). She is a Bowie-esque rockstar that is recovering from throat surgery. Matthias Shoenaerts plays her partner Paul, Ralph Fiennes plays long time ex Harry and Dakota Johnson plays Harry’s daughter Penelope.

Well, this was a frustrating watch. I don’t think there are any bad performances, and Fiennes is pretty great as an insufferable over-talkative oaf. However, the story moves along as such a sedate pace that you’ll be clock watching before the midway point. There’s a little drama/intrigue in the final chapter that’s handled quite well, but the outcome of the event takes longer than one would expect to conclude.

On the technical sides of things, the direction is fine and the cinematography is of a pretty high standard. Basically, this is pointless, poorly paced remake that happens to look quite pretty and has one notable central performance. One strictly for fans of the genre (psychological adult drama, apparently), or specifically the cast. [2.5]

#49
Hell or High Water
Cinema

Now this is more like it! Mike has pretty much summed up my thoughts exactly over at Fake Geeks. [4.5]

YOF #43-45 | Finding Dory, Suicide Squad, The Night of the Demon

#43
Finding Dory
Cinema

The sequel to Finding Nemo is good, if not as good as it’s predecessor. You can read more at Fake Geeks. [3.5]

#44
Suicide Squad
Cinema

I found Suicide Squad to be a fun-but-flawed film. If it had been released prior to the MCU’s explosion, it would have probably been better thought of.

For the record, I thought Jared Leto was good (though I can see why others would dislike the characterisation). [3]

#45
The Night of the Demon
DVD

I must thank Mike for lending me this one. The Night of the Demon is a cracking 50’s occult horror/thriller. [4]