Saturday, July 29, 2017


Now that I have finally gotten to see it (thanks to an annoyingly delayed local release date), I can understand why, despite mostly stellar reviews, Matt Reeves' WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES has been met with a more tepid box-office reception in the US than its 2014 predecessor, DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. WAR is a much more downbeat film, and though it doesn't really have a whole lot of actual combat, there's plenty of tension and a few truly beautiful and touching moments to be found.

I thought some of the sentiment was a bit over-wrought and, though I found him very endearing and remarkably well-realised, I was worried a couple of times that the "Bad Ape" character was taking the film into a realm of forced humour, something which the first two films in this trilogy had admiringly avoided. But there is still a lot of intelligence and food for thought to be found here, along with spectacle and pure entertainment. A true blockbuster with a heart and a brain.

2017 has been something of a banner year for combining war with fantasy, with KONG: SKULL ISLAND, WONDER WOMAN and now WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, which has more than a few nods to APOCALYPSE NOW (none more prominent than Woody Harrelson's great performance as a crazed, rogue military leader known as "The Colonel").

My initial thoughts are that WAR doesn't quite measure up to DAWN or RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2011), but the gap between them all is very small and as a trilogy they have succeeded in doing justice to the original 1968-1973 series of films while creating a unique mythology of their own. Something I honestly thought I would never live to see as I exited the cinema after first watching Tim Burton's 2001 attempt at retooling the concept.

Saturday, July 22, 2017


(Non-spoiler post)

Experiencing DUNKIRK on 1570 (15perf 70mm) film from the front row of the Melbourne IMAX cinema was both exhilarating and overwhelming, perhaps a little too much at times...thus mammoth film just swallows you whole.

It's a staggering achievement on so many levels, a great British war film that tells it simple but engrossing story from three separate viewpoints taking place over three different timespans, turning the film into something of a clever cinematic puzzle that is neat to watch come together without distracting you or taking you out of the narrative. It is both epic and intimate, certainly the most genuinely moving and emotional of Christopher Nolan's films to date, and it succeeds in creating characters to care for without us having to know anything about them, other than the dire predicament they are in. The film also manages to emphatically convey the horror, brutality, and wholesale sudden violent death of war without having to go the ultra-visceral graphic route of other modern war classics like SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and HACKSAW RIDGE.

The sound design is also incredible, as is Hans Zimmer's score, both of which combine to provide an often nerve-wracking pulse to the film, the bass and the bombs literally rattling your internal organs. It's well-cast with some nice performances, with Tom Hardy being particularly effective as a Spitfire pilot, having to create his character mostly through his eyes and actions, and the odd line of fighter pilot dialogue.

Absolutely worth experiencing in a cinema, preferably in 70mm. Images and sounds from this movie are bound to be bouncing around inside my head for some time.

Sunday, July 16, 2017


This afternoon's viewing was Jeff Lieberman's REMOTE CONTROL (1988), another effective and creative oddity from the writer/director of SQUIRM (1976), BLUE SUNSHINE (1978) and JUST BEFORE DAWN (1981). Where the masterful BLUE SUNSHINE had people facing the horrific consequences of indulging in the LSD craze of a decade earlier, REMOTE CONTROL also has its characters paying the price for indulging in a popular cultural movement, in this instance the home video phenomena of the ...1980s. Befitting of the era in which it was made, REMOTE CONTROL tells its story in a very flashy and much more abstract style than BLUE SUNSHINE, full of MTV pop and exaggerated 80s fashion and materialism. And yet, thanks to the use of film within a film, it is also serves as a cool homage to the classic black & white B horror and science-fiction movies of the 1950s.

As he was in the remake of THE BLOB later that same year, Kevin Dillion is pretty solid in his familiar role of a rebel with a bit of past but ultimately a decent and reliable guy (here, he plays a video store clerk who gets embroiled in an alien plot to take over the world by using the VHS release of a low-budget 50s sci-fi film called REMOTE CONTROL to brainwash viewers and program them to kill). It’s also nice to see Jennifer Tilly show up in one of her earlier roles (her exotic looks and character quirks make her a natural for a film like this), and of course for any fan of vintage VHS like myself there’s plenty of fun to be had spotting the various individual titles on the shelves and the promo displays on the counter and walls of the (fictitious) Village Video store where a good deal of the movie takes place (JAKE SPEED and the Jane fond workout tapes seem to have been particularly popular at this time). And cool to see Lieberman giving nods to his previous films, with a poster for SQUIRM hanging on one wall and a clip from BLUE SUNSHINE playing on the video store’s huge TV set. The movie also benefits from a neat and very atmospheric electronica score by Peter (Son of Elmer) Bernstein.

While an old VHS copy might seem like the most appropriate way to watch REMOTE CONTROL (it was released on tape in Australia by Village Roadshow) I would love to see it in a cinema on a double-bill with Ted Nicolaou’s TERRORVISION (1986), another colourful and gaudy genre satire of 80s junk culture and American obsession with home entertainment (and both movies feature a performance from Bert Remsen, providing a nice symbiotic bridge between the two).