Friday, 8 June 2018

Anon

To me, Anon was a promising affair: a movie written and directed by Andrew Nicole, of GATTACA fame, and starring Clive Owen, one of the best male actors around, will always be a movie I'd want to watch.
Anon is set in a near future that looks a lot like the past: very impersonal, very gray, very bleak, with only a few cars moving about and them being all seventies gas guzzling police cars.
The catch in this world is that everyone has a recorder on their eyes that takes down everything they see and makes it available to authorities. Not that this recorder doesn’t offer the layperson any benefits: it also tells them the name of any person they meet, and allows them to view past scenes of their lives. To the police, however, it enables complete supervision over everyone’s life, with all the implications this has on finding the criminals responsible to every crime.
The plot revolves mostly around a police detective (Clive Owen) who tries to catch a sexy woman we only know as Anon (Amanda Seyfried). Anon’s special ability is to be able to, somehow, delete scenes from people’s past lives; society cannot allow for that, can it? Especially the police. Hence Anon become a target. She’s an even bigger target through her clients seeming to be shot dead by her hands after the business transaction is over, though.
Thus we have ourselves a murder mystery detective story with the mandatory fam fatale that is set in a dystopian world where there is no such thing as privacy: Film noir if ever there was one.
Anon the movie is, essentially, a platform for Andrew Nicole with which to ask us viewers questions on the merits of privacy. He is basically asking why we are willing to give it away so easily in return for nothing, arguing very correctly (through the characters of Seyfried and Owen) that this dichotomy we live by whereas we sacrifice privacy for security did not give us any security improvements. Mostly, though, Anon is a case against that most commonly used argument of “nothing to fear, nothing to hide”: if you have nothing to hide from the authorities then you have nothing to fear from them either, hence you do not lose anything when you hand them your most intimate information. Anon simply argues that while this may be true, perhaps there are things we don’t want to share, thank you very much?
Bleakness aside, Anon’s message is delivered quite explicitly. By explicitly I mean just that: there are scenes that will be commonly referred to as “strong sex scenes” (as in, scenes where sex is depicted more explicitly than we are used to in mainstream movies). Similarly, there are scenes of drug use. I guess it goes with the turf: sex, in particular, would be the number one thing most people would prefer not to share with authorities, the public, or anyone for that matter.
Overall: An excellent idea for a movie that is quite hampered by the rather heavy handed bleakness which, in turn, creates a movie that is a bit too hard to digest and get into. 3 out of 5 crabs.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Office Christmas Party

Crazy silly comedies of the Jason Bateman genre don’t come sillier or shallower than Office Christmas Party. This time around, Bateman stands as the closest to normal person in an otherwise badly managed company facing the risk of closure from its tough CEO (regular Bateman partner Jennifer Aniston). The employees’ only hope? Run a Christmas office party so good, the company’s potential big client would fall for it (and save the company).
Will it work or will all hell break loose? The correct answer is C, of course: all of the above.
Despite what sounds like a plausible story, Office Christmas Party is implausible throughout. To make things worse, its conclusion relies on an even more implausible plot twist in order to sort us with the obligatory happy ending. I guess it could all be forgiven if the movie was funny - after all, we are putting a crazy comedy under the microscope here - but Office Christmas Party isn’t that funny. It rather feels like something coming out of a production line desperate to make a Christmas movie.
Overall: A weak 2 out of 5 crabs for this party affair.

Friday, 1 June 2018

Game Night

Three couples regularly meet together for game nights: nights where they hang out together and play board games together (but not the high quality board games that true gamers play; Hollywood still focuses on appealing to the mainstream). Those three couples are probably designed to represent Americans in their thirties: one white couple trying to conceive (Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams, our leads for the evening), one black couple in a bit of a marital crisis due to past adventures on the side, and one couple comprised of a guy who cannot commit and his improvised date for the evening.
What follows is a very good comedy of the exact type one has grown to associate with Jason Bateman. Bateman’s highly successful brother (Kyle Chandler) is back in town, and here to shake up the last of our hero’s confidence as the less successful of the two has to look up to his older brother again. And that old brother is organising a special game night, one where one of the participants is getting kidnapped and the rest have to find them to win a special reward: the car of [Bateman character’s] dreams. Only that reality knocks in, and instead of a fake kidnaping one of our characters gets kidnapped for real. With the catch being, everybody else is sure it’s a game.
The beauty of Game Night is in the comedy that develops as our movie developers. Our characters, busy as they are playing a game, and not realising the higher stakes at hand, spend quite a lot of their time discussing their life problems as they try to win their game / diffuse the kidnapping that actually took place. It is in those moments of high action that relationship problems are tackled (because, naturally, no one dares talks about these things under otherwise normal circumstances). Thus Game Night becomes a movie most people would be able to identify with (and not only board gamers like yours truly).
Throw in some good cameos (such as a Miami forensic serial killer), and Game Night should turn one particular night of your life into a particularly entertaining one. Just as long as you don’t try to make sense of the plot.
Overall: 3.5 out of 5 crabs, and as seemingly silly comedies go - a pretty good one!

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

WarGames

John Badham directed several anti war movies during my formative years. Short Circuit was probably the most commercially successful; Blue Thunder enticed me with its helicopter and jet fighter action; but WarGames (1983) is probably the most important of those, due to its accuracy and not only ongoing relevancy but rather increased relevancy.
The movie came out just as personal computers for the home started being a thing mere mortals could indulge with. It follows a teenager (Matthew Broderick), a hacker from a time before the word became common with the plebs. His hacks involve “upgrading” his school grades as well as those of his female friend that’s not exactly a girlfriend but is pretty close (you know what it’s like, male nerds don’t have girlfriends). Yet our hacker is a curious fellow, and on his ongoing curiosity driven quest for poking around the internet (in a pre-internet world) he stumbles upon what seems to be a games repository. Only that it’s not a games repository: it’s actually the USA Strategic Command’s Skynet, or rather the computer the USA handed the rights to manage its nuclear weapons to. So while our hacker thinks he’s playing a game, the President is thinking the USA is under a nuclear attack from the USSR. Can common sense prevail, or are we all doomed to die due to a computer granted too many privileges, a backdoor, and an innocent hacker?
Although 35 years old, and displaying technology of a far simpler nature than is available today, the principles behind WarGames are all still there: social hacking, backdoors, stupidly simple passwords - nothing you don’t read about in coverage of the Daily Big Hack mainstream media reports to us all the time.
While it can be argued we are no longer under the knife’s edge when it comes to nuclear war, it does not change the fact the same scenario we are witnessing in the movie applies to everything computerised in our daily lives. For example, Australia is about to force its implementation of an electronic health system upon its population within a few months, limiting (and hiding) the option to opt out of this system. Does anyone doubt that eHealth system is weakened by vulnerabilities and all manner of backdoors, which would - eventually - see all of its contents fall into the wrong hands? I don’t.
Which, if anything, shows we haven’t learned anything in the 35 years since WarGames came out.
Overall: While certain aspects are not up to contemporary standards (say, production value), WarGames still makes a valid point. 4 out of 5 paranoid crabs.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

I, Tonya

It is rather unusual for movie to bring us the loser’s story; Hollywood is all about glorifying the winner. Yet bringing us the loser’s story is the whole point of I, Tonya.
As someone who lived through the events around Tonya Harding’s controversial ice skating career, I recall receiving nightly updates about her latest leg bashing affairs through Jay Leno’s Tonight Show jokes. What I, Tonya goes to show, however, is that life is more complicated than a talk show's joke. There is more to the real story than this.
That story is about a young girl growing up in poverty in the USA, and about how she and her mother (so excellently portrayed by Margot Robbie and Allison Janney) had to struggle in order to support the girl in doing something she turned out to be really good at: ice skating. Despite her abundance of talent, the girl had to face many closed doors along the way, mainly because ice skating is a rich people’s sport. Eventually, through mixing up with the wrong people (portrayed by the movie in ever so comically a way), she fell on the wrong side of the tracks.
This tragic story of the poor in our world, and the extra trouble they have to go through when they try to get out of the mire, has touched me quite deeply as I watched I, Tonya. It reminded me of another very effective movie in this arena, Hell or High Water.
Technically speaking, I think it is safe to assume it was not Robbie who performed all of the ice skating tricks the movie provides. I do wonder what digital magic was involved.
A nice eighties, more or less, soundtrack featuring my favourite Cliff Richard song seals the deal on an excellent movie.
Overall: 4 out of 5 crabs.

Friday, 11 May 2018

Self/less

A rich person dying of cancer (Ben Kingsley) takes part in a secretive operation that has his consciousness transferred to a young man’s body (Ryan Reynolds). It’s only afterwards that he discovers that, unlike what he was told, that body used to belong to someone. Our now young and able protagonist grows a conscience and tries to do the right thing.
Problem is, a science fiction movie idea with much potential quickly turns into yet another cliche action movie. Guy saves girl, guy kills baddies, and who cares about the premises, really?
Probably the worst thing about the movie is the credit it gives one Donald Trump (in the movie’s end credits). I suspect that’s due to our millionaire’s home being Trump’s IRL hideous gold covered mansion.
Overall: 2 out of 5 crabs.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Una

Una’s story is rather tough to digest and affects the whole experience that is watching this film. It tells the story of a young girl who has had a sexual relationship with an adult. The relationship has been exposed and deeply impacted both lives. Now, years later, the now adult girl, Una (Rooney Mara) shows up and forces herself into the life of her former older lover (Ben Mendelssohn).
The outcome is not the most pleasant of watches; this is not your switch the mind off Marvel superhero movie, but rather an invasive look into the lives of deeply traumatised people. The leads do a magnificent job and carry this hard to crack affair across; they probably had to, given Una is a play translated to the screen that definitely still feels like a play.
Overall: A very dramatic drama that is definitely not suitable to all occasions. 3 out of 5 crabs.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri

Plot wise, it doesn’t sound like there is much to Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri. It’s the story of a mother (Frances McDormand) whose daughter was raped and killed who, frustrated with the lack of progress with the police investigation (led by Woody Harrelson), pays to have three otherwise neglected billboards outside her small town mock the police.
The catch, if you will, is that the ensuing story ends up a bit like a Forrest Gump affair. As in, the story it tells us about this little town and what happens in it as a result of these signs being put up offers us a mirror into the soul of the USA and the various processes it is going through. The same healing process that Forrest Gump saw in America is taking place inside of Ebbing, Missouri, and is best represented through the character of a knucklehead cup (Sam Rockwell).
Which leaves us with a gripping comic drama of top quality featuring multiple round characters and excellent acting across. Indeed, the only complaint I can make is to do with Abbie Cornish’s character (that of Harrelson’s wife) feeling rather out of place due to the significant age difference between alleged husband and wife. If that difference was intentional to the telling of the story then I have failed to detect that.
Overall: Clearly one of the best movies of the past year, if not the best. 4.5 out of 5 crabs.