Film Reviews 2022

Harry and Meghan are two naughty little pixies that fled Britain’s Royal Family and now can’t seem to shut up! When Netflix offered them a $100 million dollar deal to spill the beans again on the Royals, they decided, “Oh, well…WTF! Why not!” I suppose the only question to ask about this hypnotic Netflix series is, ‘do we believe they are telling the truth?’ You bloody oath I do! I watched the six-part series simply titled Harry and Meghan in bed with a glass of milk and a Vegemite crumpet and I positively enjoyed it. Harry was always a bit of of a loose cannon, running around naked and smoking dope, as Meghan points out in the series. She didn’t change him. He was the most likeable member of the Royals because all his flaws were on display and the public loved him. Does the whole Netflix thing come off as a money grab by Harry and Meghan? Absolutely it does. They know that their time is limited, and soon enough they’ll be making public appearances and talking about climate change at the local Montecito YMCA. Best make money right now 😊 Do I believe their stories of racism and bullying in the world’s most recognisable family are true? I do! The Royals (as much as I love them) have all been spoilt rotten. Since birth in fact! The thought of an American actress joining the fold must have rattled a corgi or two somewhere in the palace. The Netflix series is well made with some exceptional photography. It’s an enjoyable romp behind the scenes of two of the world’s most famous faces. It also gives us more insight into Meghan before she met Harry. Reminds us, like Harry, she is rebel and was always a feminist. I loved every juicy instalment and found a new appreciation for Meghan Markle. If I have one criticism of the Netflix series (and them as a couple) it’s that they complain a lot. Perhaps both of them could have shared more enjoyable moments with us on film. The public always responds well to positivity and the series was crying out for more feel-good moments. But maybe that’s to come when Harry publishes his book…aptly titled, Spare. I highly recommend this series even if you’re not a fan of Harry and Meghan. It might change your mind!

Nightmare Alley – I enjoyed this remake of the 1947 film that starred Tyrone Power. Borrowing at times from Tod Browning’s 1932 classic “Freaks” (although never quite as grim) Nightmare Alley does a solid job of serving up the dangers and the attractions of circus life. Everyone in the cast is terrific and the direction by Guillermo Del Torro is spot on…if a little slow at times. It plays like a 1940’s film noir “fairytale” and the costumes and sets are magnificent. Director Del Torro like Alfred Hitchcock has his directing style down pat and isn’t afraid to embrace it. If you have seen Del Torro’s Hellboy, Crimson Peak, The Shape of Water then you can expect much the same style and artistry. My only criticism is it does tend to drag a little in the middle. That said, the film manages to pick up speed again and propel the audience forward on the edge-of- their-seats to a somewhat surprising conclusion. Special mention to Roony Mara who plays Molly (and looks uncannily like Audrey Hepburn) for a well-played and understated performance. I loved her. If you have a penchant for circus films as much as I do, and you are a fan of Bradley Cooper, you’ll love Nightmare Alley.

Candyman – What to watch over Easter break? I know…Let’s do the Candyman on Amazon Prime. Jordan Peele of Get Out fame has resurrected the Candyman and his screenplay is a prequel to the 1992 horror classic the Candyman…and it’s an engrossing 92 minutes of terror. The new Candyman (Tony Todd) is still as pissed off as ever… so whatever you do, “Don’t Say His Name 5 Times” and stare blankly into a bathroom mirror after you take a pee…if you do then you’ll get your throat cut for sure 💀 Naturally everyone in the film can’t resist saying his name 5 times and are hooked 🪝 to death in a number of elaborate bathroom murders. I must admit it’s not as gory as I was expecting. I’m fond of the original movie with Virginia Marsden (probably the best role she ever had), credit where credit’s due, this new version does “hook” you in. In updating the story Peele gives a nod to the Black Lives Matter movement, murders a lot of white folk and also manages to point out that creating art isn’t easy. You need to give body and soul to your art if you want to succeed. The art versus murder metaphor I found nicely written in the screenplay. The special effects are not bad, I particularly liked the two bloody 🩸 murders in the art gallery in the first half of the film. The Candyman is definitely worth a visit. Is it as good as the original? Probably not! But it’s not bad either!

I revisited Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece Psycho recently on the streaming service Stan. Staying for a night at the infamous Bates Motel, just off the main highway, was well worth the stopover. Psycho and The Birds are the only two horror films made by Hitchcock and both films stand up to repeated viewing, even though the shocks they first delivered have dimmed. Psycho is perhaps the better performed film of the two. I don’t mean to diminish the quality of The Birds in anyway by that last statement. Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins deliver outstanding performances and are suitably supported on screen by John Gavin and one of Hitchcock’s favourite actresses, Vera Miles. Vera appeared in Hitchcock’s TV series and starred in The Wrong Man. What struck me watching Psycho this time around was the vast number of extreme closeups used throughout to convey inner fear, the cheapness of some of the sets particularly the hotel rooms, and the extraordinary black and white cinematography by John L Russell. Russell’s next film after Psycho was Billie starring Patty Duke (a teen film I quite like) five years later in 1965. Psycho turned out to be his most memorable screen credit. If you look closely, you can see Psycho was made on a shoestring budget by Hitchcock and his TV crew as no studio would back it…so Hitchcock financed it himself. The acting and pacy screenplay by Joseph Stefano (based on Robert Bloch’s pulp novel) along with Hitchcock’s flare for visual storytelling keeps the audience glued to the screen for most of its running time. My favourite scene from the movie is when Janet and Anthony share an intimate nighttime snack in the back office of the motel, before Janet takes her final shower. (We all know what happens in the bathroom to her, right?) Surrounded by Norman’s stuffed birds and his painful childhood memories, they eat and connect in an odd bird like way, just two flawed people. No monsters here, just attractive strangers turning on to each other and shooting the breeze. Both characters trapped by their past actions, locked in their own private hell. We’ve all made decisions we’ve lived to regret, right? This delicate scene which balances flirtation and compulsion superbly reminds us that we are the hands of a master filmmaker at the peak of his creativity. Psycho is directed deftly by Hitchcock and performed with skill by the entire cast. It’s made with love and affection for B-grade thrillers, and despite it very low budget sparkles like the $40,000 stolen dollars left in Janet’s motel room. Forty grand was a lot of money in America in the early 1960s. Special mention to Bernard Herrmann’s unforgettable music score, it gets better with each passing year. Some might regard Psycho as an old-fashioned Hollywood movie, made well over 60 years ago. But just like a weak old lady locked in the fruit cellar, a light is shining somewhere in the dark for her… and for film aficionados, that light will never die on this masterpiece.

I slipped into the Astor Theatre this arvo to see Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis. Before I comment on the film, I’ll just mention Baz directs every movie he makes exactly the same way, hate his style or love it, he won’t let you ignore the fact he is the director. I’m fine with that. He’s done all the hard work after all, dreamt up the idea, raised the money, employed a lot of people including his wife… but every now and then while watching one of his films (and Elvis is no exception) I wish he’d step back, take a breath, and let the script and actors tell the story. Now that’s out of the way, I really enjoyed Elvis. It’s goes off like a rocket. Is it a great movie? No! It’s more like an extended music video with a mega budget. The story is really about Col. Tom Parker, the man who discovered Elvis, played in the film by Tom Hanks. Tom’s not too bad either. But hats off to Austin Butler who plays Elvis. Hot diggity dog, he steals the show right out from under old man Hanks’ nose and doesn’t give a frigging damn. It’s a first-class performance, with Butler never putting a foot wrong during the three-hour running time. As for the rest of the performances? Who cares! Typical of Baz’s style, everyone is over acting anyway so it doesn’t matter. The thing is Austin Butler did his homework and nailed his performance. That’s all I cared to remember when I left the Astor humming Elvis’ Old Kentucky Rain. Nothing else matters except the guy on stage in the jumpsuit playing Elvis. And I’m ok with that!

Tonight, just for something different, I watched How to Build a Sex Room on Netflix. I mean how difficult could it be? Well, apparently in suburbia, and in some very wealthy households, it’s very hard. Or rather it’s “not hard,” so troubled couples’ callout for help. And help comes, literally, in the form of bespectacled interior designer, Melanie Rose. Melanie is a friendly English lady who could be your grandma. She also just happens to love leather, bondage gear, big black vibrators and dropping the odd F-Bomb here and there. Melanie reminded me a lot of Mary Poppins, only she knows, and you know it’s going to take a lot more than a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down in some of these households. Grey haired and armed with a bag of toys, and a rather odd bald guy with a tape measure, Melanie Rose gets to work mending sex lives, encouraging anyone who’ll listen to have multiple orgasms…and building a sex room. The show is essentially a budget version of The Block with cast restrictions and butt plugs…and I found the whole premise amusing. For a brief moment I imagined a sex dungeon in my St Kilda flat, but I don’t have enough room to swing a cat around, never mind a fully grown person. Still, I can always dream 😴 Anyway, I’ll get to the climax of this review. I liked How to Build a Sex Room. I liked Melanie Rose. And if I had more space, I’d probably build a sex room. But I’d more than likely design it myself and ask Melanie over for a cup of tea.

Melanie Rose relaxing with a cuppa

What A Sneaky Little Thriller! The Australian film Darklands premiered on Stan this week and it is really bloody interesting… and very dark! Nadine Gardner is excellent as the cop who is a little disturbed after the death of her son. What a great actress she is. The film is a real popcorn thriller, I was enthralled all the way. Samantha Cain is the other lead, and she is also good as the tortured (but not so nice) journalist. However, I couldn’t take my eyes off Nadine! Her acting is absolutely brilliant! Well, she’s been doing it a very long time. I still remember her as the little girl from Monkey Grip with Noni Hazelhurst. A fun fact – The two lead female roles were originally written as men! If you like those improbable edge of your seat thrillers, and I do…. this twisted little number directed by Scott Majors is definitely worth a look. PS. I loved the version of House of the Rising Sun used in the film as well.

I just got back from the Classic after watching Don’t Worry Darling and for the most part I was impressed. The acting by Florence Pugh is absolutely brilliant and Christopher Pine isn’t too far behind her, he does creepy very well. It’s directed at a deliberately measured pace, so it won’t appeal to movie action lovers. Still, there is a car chase towards the end which is spectacular. The big reveal isn’t really surprising though, if you’re a fan of writer Ira Levin you’ll know where the film is going! All I will say is it’s like The Stepford Wives (exact same plot/turning points) reimagined for a modern audience. The producers obviously didn’t want to pay royalties for Levin’s story. But it’s very well done particularly the production design, and Palm Springs makes a good backdrop to the horror elements. Lastly Harry Styles doesn’t quite nail his role at the beginning, but he’s got screen appeal, and comes into his own as the storyline unfolds. Would I recommend it? I love thrillers, I love the 70s film of The Stepford Wives, so it’s a thumbs up from me 🥂 PS. Special mention to Dita Von Teese who appears in one scene in a very large glass of champagne 🍾

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