The classic Agatha Christie-style whodunit murder mystery story is a genre that I have, admittedly, had limited exposure to in contemporary Hollywood productions, let alone one that is set in our present-day Trump-governed America. It was a genre I had always associated with the Cluedo board game growing up as well as the infamous Simpsons two-part episode ‘Who Shot Mr. Burns’. When I had heard that Rian Johnson’s latest cinematic outing, Knives Out would present a more playfully comedic, theatrical take on the whodunit genre, I was initially rather apprehensive. This was mainly due to Johnson’s previous film Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) having been met with possibly the most controversial and divisive critical reception of any film that I had heard of. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that Knives Out was a thoroughly entertaining and well-crafted production with a wonderfully talented cast, masterful use of staging, intricately detailed and theatrical set-pieces interwoven with a devilishly tongue-in-cheek brand of comedy and deft use of classic murder-mystery tropes.
“All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy. That’s how far the world is from where I am. Just one bad day.”
To say that the Joker, the arch-nemesis of Batman and one of the most notorious comic-book villains of the modern age has had a storied legacy within the realm of Hollywood cinema would be trivializing the character’s notable impact on the medium. The fact that he has 7 cinematic incarnations with each one wildly differing from the last stands as a testament to the Clown-Prince of Crime’s pervasiveness and longevity in Hollywood film. As befitting a character with a knack for dramatic and grandiose entrances, it only seems appropriate that the Joker makes an explosive solo return to the 2019 cinematic scene in a sea of anticipation and contention in equal measure.
It’s been a good nine years since
Toy Story’s third installment had been released. A film that was once
universally regarded to be the definitive and beautifully bittersweet capstone
of the genre-defining Toy Story films. But, knowing Disney’s habit of
capitalizing on its more nostalgic properties as of late, the release of a
fourth installment to this beloved franchise was, more or less, to be expected,
albeit with relative scepticism of its quality compared to its predecessors. With
a new director, Josh Cooley at the helm along with writers leaving the project
due to ‘creative differences’, and an almost 2-year delay of the film due to
other projects, such as The Incredibles 2, audiences were nervous that Toy
Story 4 was doomed to fall short of their expectations set by previous
installments. After all, what could a new installment possibly add after such a
final and near-perfect conclusion? Did we really need to know what happened to
Woody and Buzz next?
I have always been a casual fan of
the Pokémon franchise.
I had enjoyed the show as a kid, I still play many of the games to this day, and I
even briefly got on board with the Pokémon GO craze that came about in
2016. That being said, while Pokémon, to this day is still a big hit
with younger audiences, I’ve always acknowledged it’s older demographic as
being a rather niche market. Which is why I never would have expected a film
concept as ‘shockingly’ outrageous as Pokémon: Detective Pikachu to be
greenlit. Pun intended.
When it comes to stylized, energetic and gloriously ultraviolent contemporary action flicks that aren’t bound to a comic-book mega-franchise, the Chad Stahleski-directed John Wick trilogy are without a doubt, the films that set the standard for the mid/late 2010s and continue to live up to their hype with each instalment. As with its predecessors, John Wick 3 Parabellum delivers another brutal orchestra of elegantly choreographed and over-the-top bloodshed with Keanu Reeves starring as its merciless conductor, using any and every means in the vicinity to put down his enemies, whether it be a gun, a book or even a horse. It gives me great satisfaction knowing that Reeves who was long criticized and disregarded for his ‘wooden’ performances in past performances could spring to life in these films through his energetic movement and innate determination in conducting his own stunts.
During its rather explosive 11 year
run, the Michael Bay-helmed Transformers film franchise hasn’t exactly
developed a particularly stellar cinematic legacy, with most productions being
widely regarded as crass, noisy, explosion-filled, soulless Hollywood drivel
with no shortage of puerile sophomoric humour and scantily clad girls draped
over car bonnets. For the longest time, this was the status-quo for this
franchise, to the point that I’d stopped caring about investing my money in
seeing these films at the cinema by the time ‘The Last Knight’ rolled around. This
simply boils down to the fact that since 2009, the mere act of watching Bay’s
transformers films, with all their typical tempestuous bombast, incoherence and
shameless product placement was in itself an exhaustive and mentally-draining
endeavour in and of itself. This speaks volumes of the sloppiness and utter
creative emptiness that Bay had invested into these films, and the knowledge
that a big budget Hollywood media franchise is comfortable to reduce itself to
such a state is utterly soul-destroying for modern cinema as a whole.
What do you get when you toss Wolfenstein, John Carpenter’s The Thing, Saving Private Ryan and possibly the most blatant amounts of historical inaccuracy into a blender? You get a feverishly insane, ridiculously ultraviolent, revisionist war horror, schlock-fest that is Overlord. It could easily be dismissed as exactly the kind of unapologetically gruesome and tasteless B-movie pulp that a fourteen-year-old version of me would call a ‘masterpiece’. But in an era where most action productions are shackled to grand executive franchise aspirations, a schlocky revisionist war film about horrific Nazi experimentation with a simple beginning and an end and no loose ends to be tied up in a sequel or big-budget franchise feels like a breath of fresh air.
I can’t overstate it enough. Guillermo del Toro is one of those directors who’s signature aesthetic style of his productions is something I have a tremendous personal adoration for. His more commercial productions including the Hellboy films and Pacific Rim were simple, yet fun and well-executed for what they were. But while they may have attracted me to his visual style initially, what had garnered a much more profound fascination in me for del Toro’s work were his more ‘artistic’ productions that delve into certain historical backdrops and deftly intertwine and manifest certain conflicts and anxieties of said historical period with his own oddball blend of atmospheric dark fantasy and gothic horror.
When I’d first discovered that the roster for ‘Best Animation’ at the Oscars had included some rather sub-par Hollywood-based productions such as Dreamworks’ ‘Boss Baby’ and Blue Sky’s ‘Ferdinand’ that were competing alongside some visually innovative and even ground-breaking international releases such as the spectacular UK-produced ‘Loving Vincent’, along with the latest Cartoon Saloon-production: ‘The Breadwinner’, I was somewhat disillusioned.