Top of the Tube: The best YouTube movie critics


Since its inception into popular culture in 2005, YouTube has become a pioneering force for worldwide video sharing. The service has since surpassed several key entertainment mediums to become the go-to source of entertainment. The past decade, indeed, was a mixed bag for entertainment mediums and modes of all shapes, sizes, and functions. But YouTube moved with the times.

As print formats continue to descend into the darkness (or online), YouTube is bolstered by comedy, drama, and action videos shared by anyone – many of whom long for their 15 minutes of fame. Even Hollywood has come on board with the phenomenon, with eager filmmakers picked from obscurity after uploading their work onto the behemoth site (see the original Pixels short).

Nowadays, trailers, clips, and behind-the-scenes videos are only a couple of clicks away. The rise of the YouTube film critic has been huge for many Generation X and Y-ers. They provide heads-up examinations of each new movie and TV show. My chosen critics have stepped up to the microphone; hitting well above their weight and higher than the competition.

photoThousands of hits, spiteful comments, and copycats later, they have evolved into becoming some of the most influential critics/citizen journalists working today. The self-employed film buffs including Jeremy Jahns, Chris Stuckmann and Schmoes Know have enough range and charisma to attract the attention of viewers and advertisers. So, how exactly have these critics and filmaholics broken away from the scores of YouTubers currently blogging, vlogging, and flogging?

Jeremy Jahns, pronounced many different ways by many different people, is a one-man machine working from home. His YouTube channel, launching in mid 2009, was a sure-fire, quick-witted response to the CGI-induced nightmare that is Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Since then, Jahns has been uploading his opinions on everything including movies, trailers, video games, and TV shows.

The YouTube sensation’s style can best be described in one word: Laymen. Beyond the cool suits and calm attitude, the man speaks like you and me. He delivers each video like a guy talking to you in a bar. That’s what makes him so approachable and interesting – his ability to analyse each movie, communicate his ideas, provide witty humour and deliver a final blow within each short, concise video. Jahns is a one man 3-D experience (and not just because he stands so close to the camera).

maxresdefault (1)Chris Stuckmann is of a similar breed of heavy-hitting YouTube stars. This other thirty-something has embedded himself in popular film criticism and social media. Popping up on Screen Junkies and across the internet, his friendly face and welcoming personality pull you in. More so, his analyses are memorable and thoughtful enough to keep you around. Like with every YouTube critic, his biggest videos focus on the year’s most anticipated movies. Every Marvel Cinematic Universe movie review connects to the audience whilst informing everyone else. His hilariocity reviews and in-depth spoiler discussions always provide something new. Prometheus and Drive are seen in a different light thanks to Stuckmann’s deft approach.

The best of the best critics break through language divides to create original and entertaining discussions. What the Flick?! is one of the milestone achievements of online and YouTube film criticism. The four leads – Ben Mankiewicz, Christy Lemire, Matt Atchity and Alsonso Duralde – are part of Los Angeles’ broadcast and online film journalism elite. The four star in video reviews with each other and/or a slew of similar guests.

Their reckless energy keeps eyes glued to the screen no matter the subject at hand. It is a unique skill – conveying charisma, charm and immense knowledge in a modest fashion. The crew’s reviews, opinion segments and interviews are worth the subscription. Their reviews of Marvel/Netflix shows Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist explore each episode, character, storyline and underlying element with ease.

Screen Junkies takes the cake for modern online criticism and entertainment. Sprouting from humble beginnings several years ago, the group kicked off with the uber-successful Honest Trailers along with interviews/kooky segments/other hosted by Hal Rudnik. Their sundance-news-sj-universe1entries continually break the mould – providing fun and funky ideas for their audience to bounce off of and have a good time with. Since then, movie fights and honest trailer commentaries have become part of their ongoing campaign for online ratings. Screen Junkies News is the cherry on top of the sundae. The News channel’s array of hosts and topics (movies, TV etc.) appropriately balances expert opinion and laughs.

A lot of people think it is easy to become a YouTube/internet sensation. Video apps are chock-a-block with people pointing cameras at themselves, surrounding themselves with cool backgrounds and spewing their opinions for the masses to devour. However, it is almost impossible to connect with viewers and maintain a high level of interest from them. The aforementioned channels and organisations prove talent in front of and behind the camera – along with blood, sweat, tears and dollars – are needed to make YouTube careers go from dreams to reality.

Deepish Thought: The Line Between ‘Director’s Cut’ and ‘Final Cut’


In 1982, sci-fi-action-thriller Blade Runner polarised critics and audiences. Acclaimed movie critic Roger Ebert tarnished whatever reputation it had, becoming one of the strangest Hollywood projects of its decade. The film tanked, forcing Ridley Scott and Harrison Ford to reconsider their options.

Directors-Cuts-Scott-072015Blade Runner ‘Final Cut’ came out after several re-jigged versions of the 80s smash, removing everything Scott and Ford disliked. The move kicked off the rise of extended/special/director’s cuts in home entertainment. Today, it is considered one of contemporary Hollywood cinema’s most ground-breaking blockbusters. The film shaped an entire generation of filmmakers, convinced the film was the pinnacle of Hollywood potential.

Over cinema’s history, there has been a strong divide between the director’s cut and theatrical version. A film’s producers, refining the run-time and content to fit the rating system and avoid ambiguity, typically decide the theatrical cut. The director’s cut is longer, broader, and more explicit than the theatrical cut, presented as the director’s approved copy.

The director’s cut refers to what is decided on in the editing process. This particular copy comes between the rough and theatrical cuts, leaving in everything the directors they accepted and endorsed. Many of these are released after the original version, with ‘Director’s Cut’ or ‘Extended/Special Edition’ DVDs selling like hotcakes and attracting increased critical attention.

Many theatrical cuts exist to fit in more screenings per day at the cinema complex. However, with most blockbusters stretched to two-and-a-half-hours, the call for more cuts and minimal directorial control may be necessary. There are two key examples of how studio, director, and producer dynamics have transformed some projects into some of the most memorable productions in contemporary cinema.

avengers-age-of-ultron-team-noscaleThe Avengers: Age of Ultron is a packed middle chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Whilst telling its own story – introducing a new villain, protagonists, settings etc. – the 11th franchise instalment forced director Joss Whedon to set up future flicks including Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther, and Thor: Ragnarok. To achieve his vision, Whedon set his sights on a four-hour cut to complete this monumental task. The move would have potentially split the instalment into two parts, fleshing out each element to its full potential.

However, the film was designated as one instalment by MCU/Disney heads – receiving mixed reviews from critics and fans for pushing too much into one production. Here, Whedon and the studio clashed head on. Whilst Whedon’s idea would have provided more bang for your buck, the MCU’s plans for future movies would have been stalled. Age of Ultron left the director and studio butting heads, leaving the debate over Whedon’s vision up in the air.

Whereas Age of Ultron blurred the lines between Whedon and the studio’s visions, Ridley Scott’s features make a clear distinction. Scott, from Blade Runner onwards, has had several projects flipped and switched by the studios. For the 2003 re-release of Alien, Scott agreed to create an alternative cut to satisfy 20th Century Fox directly. However, with films including Gladiator, American Gangster, and Black Hawk Down, Scott and the studio’s vision matched directly. All three were released as extended/special editions for DVD editions.

df04719ef97e67c26eb87ab73301ed5fOf course, the most common version of the director’s cut is adding more scenes to extend its run-time. The theatrical version of Kingdom of Heaven was met with mixed reviews and dim box-office returns upon release in 2005. Despite being considered a failure, Scott stood by the project throughout its production, release, and reception. The underrated crusades-epic was given the green light, with Scott developing a director’s cut for release several months later.

Screened at the Laemmle Fairfax Theatre on December 23rd, 2005, the director’s cut is approximately 45 minutes to one hour longer than the original. As the version Scott wanted for release, the director’s cut – at 194 minutes – includes a more thorough, fleshed-out version with an overture and intermission. The film received a much stronger reaction from critics, praising Scott for sticking to his original vision. The film, thanks to Scott’s version, is considered one of the filmmaker’s best movies.

The debate between theatrical and director’s cuts has pros and cons on both sides. Big-name, visionary directors including Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg have final cut privilege over their films to positive results. On the other hand, producers, taking advice from focus groups and people involved, have good reason to change the edit, understandably protecting their investment to gain commercial success.

5 Interesting and Slightly Quirky Filmmakers


Critics and audiences cannot stop talking about noir-thriller and Oscar-hungry art-piece Nocturnal Animals. Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal star in this twisty-turny thriller guaranteed to create conversations lasting long after the credits have rolled. The movie’s performances from Adams, Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson (of all people…) are second to none. However, credit goes to writer-director Tom Ford for creating a living, breathing slice of psychological-horror as american as apple pie and July 4th. Ford was the high-end fashion designer turned acclaimed filmmaker. You have to take out a second mortgage to afford even one piece of attire!

Conquering fashion and filmmaking, he now has a fearsome reputation. The man has more money and power than a large chunk of the world’s population. It’s not simply that he is extremely rich, ambitious and good-looking…it is that he actively tries to develop new and exciting projects. Admirably, he wants to break down barriers and create as many original works as possible. I looked up a slew of underrated filmmakers soon to reach extraordinary levels of coverage.

5. Gareth Edwards – Godzilla, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

godzilla-gareth-edwards-bryan-cranston-set-photo.jpgGareth Edwards burst onto the scene with sci-fi-thinkpiece Monsters back in 2010. The British filmmaker shot to the top of the most-wanted list in the early 2010s. His next film defined his style and vision. 2014’s Godzilla was a mixed bag of unique but frustrating choices. The movie (spoiler) loses points for killing off Walter White in favour of Kick-Ass. The elephant in the room cannot be ignored – the titular creature appears in 10 minutes out of 2 hours. Citing Bruce the Shark’s involvement in Jaws, the filmmaker wanted us to wait with anticipation. Sadly for him, audience members felt the distinctive sting of blue balls throughout the run-time. When announced as the director of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, film fans voiced concern. However, Edwards’ intentional pacing and hyper-serious tone suited the story. Focusing on war and despair, Edwards crafted stakes and thrilling moments in spite of a conventional story.

4. Gareth Evans – The Raid: Redemption, The Raid 2: Berandal

la-1797711-ca-0313-raid-gareth-evans-jlc-03c-jpg-20140331This young Welsh filmmaker became an overnight sensation in 2011. The Raid: Redemption  took the film festival world by storm. The movie mixed conventional story with a brand new attitude. Set in Indonesia, the movie sees a SWAT team infiltrate a high-rise tower in the middle of a lower-class district. Of course, nothing goes according to plan. The movie lets the cast and crew to showcase their strengths. The movie brought intricate martial art pencak silat into the public consciousness. More so, it’s a ferocious and lightning-quick action-thriller with unlimited tension and spectacle. The lead actor, Iko Uwais, was a silent, vicious action hero throwing a million kicks and punches per second. The Raid 2: Berandal upped the ante, borrowing from a slew of asian martial-arts epics and American crime-gangster flicks. Should be make his Hollywood debut or stay in Asia and continue his run of manic action/martial arts projects?

3. Robert Eggers – The Witch

robert-eggers-the-witch

American writer/director Robert Eggers went from obscurity to public notice in 2016. Critically and (surprisingly) commercially successful horror-thriller The Witch sent horror fans and general audiences into a frenzy. One of the year’s biggest surprise hits focused on a Puritan family in 17th century New England, banished to the woods in the outer districts. The family, in true horror-period fashion, are terrorised by evil forces and their ever-increasing paranoia. Eggers stuck to the essential elements, focusing on the family throughout its tight running time. As the forces of evil and each family member collide, the atmosphere becomes increasingly uncomfortable. Exorcisms, jumpscares and chases include an array of unexpected surprises. His style helped to deliver powerhouse performances from newcomer Anya Taylor-Joy and Kate Dickie. The Nosferatu remake is in the best hands possible.

2. Rian Johnson – Brick, Looper

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Writer, producer and director Rian Johnson could be the next great saviour of big-budget cinema. The filmmaker burst onto the scene with neo-noir/teen adventure Brick. Brick introduced a whole new generation to noir whilst shooting Joseph Gordon-Levitt into the stratosphere. Johnson followed it up with The Brothers Bloom, giving Adrian Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel Weisz etc. a fun crime-comedy to work with. In both movies, Johnson showcased a pulpy directorial style, unique sense of humour and solid connections with actors. 2012’s Looper launched Johnson into superstardom. The sci-fi action smash gave us the last great Bruce Willis performance (a feat, in itself). The movie effortlessly balances sci-fi tropes with strong emotional heft and exhilarating action sequences. His next, Star Wars Episode VIII, is sure to give him a wider audience and freedom for future pet projects.

1. Denis Villeneuve – Sicario, Arrival

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French-Canadian writer/director Denis Villeneuve is one of Hollywood’s weirdest and most wonderful filmmakers. He turned heads with mystery-drama Incendies. The movie’s dark, sickening tone and thrilling twists turned heads. 2013 crime-drama Prisoners gave Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal meatier roles. Thanks to Roger Deakins’ cinematography and tough source material, the movie shot to many critics’ top-10 lists. Along with hypnotic 2014 flick Enemy, 2015’s Sicario gave Villeneuve even more attention. The movie saw Emily Blunt as a SWAT team member fighting a losing battle in the war on drugs. Recruited for a top-secret spec-ops program, she delves into sick, twisted world of bureaucracy, lies and murder. Villeneuve, re-teaming with Deakins, delivered a tight, taut crime-thriller about the government/security’s darker shades. More so, this year’s Arrival is a haunting and thought-provoking snapshot of our times. Blade Runner 2049 should pay off in spades.

Reshoot & Rewind’s Bottom 10 of 2016


My love of cinema extends to the good, the bad and the ugly. Always, I want to walk into a movie and walk out more excited than before. I want to be continually blown away by the majesty and wonder of cinema. However, 2016 gave me only a handful of those moments. Over and over again, I saw sequels, reboots, prequels etc. fail to live up to their potential. Many movies showcased clear mistakes that could have been avoided by script polishes and a few more people saying ‘no’. This year, more than almost any other, highlighted Hollywood greed at its most cynical and detrimental. The movies on this top 10 list made me angry and upset. It pains to see so many talented people involved in such woeful, misguided material. I suspect several A-listers will go back to the drawing board in 2017.

10. Gods of Egypt 

gods-of-egyptDirector Alex Proyas used to make seminal genre pieces like Dark City and Crow. Even I, Robot is an entertaining experience. However, Knowing and now Gods of Egypt illustrate a sharp decline in quality. This action-adventure shows an artist at the end of his tether. This once-great filmmaker has seemingly used up his energy and ambition throughout earlier projects. Gods of Egypt is yet another laughable and anachronistic sword-and-sandal epic. A top-notch cast – including Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Gerard Butler, Elodie Yung and Chadwick Boseman – struggle through an abhorrent screenplay and sluggish direction.

9. Point Break

pointbreakver8xlgjpg-c73302_1280w1991’s Point Break, directed by Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty), exists to show off sun, sand and it’s leads’ pure charisma. Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze deliver fun turns in a wild, unrestrained action flick. Sadly, its sheen fails to rub off on the remake. Unknown director Ericson Core directs a 2-hour Red Bull commercial without the cheap thrills or any style. Truly, this has no wings. Luke Bracey and Edgar Ramirez, although excellent in other movies, struggle to provide any enthusiasm. Both look like they are being held at gunpoint whilst reading off cue-cards simultaneously.

8. The Divergent Series: Allegiant

allegiant-movieThe Divergent Series: Allegiant represents the last gasp of air taken by the Young Adult genre. The studio made the ultimate, and evil, decision to split the last book into two big-budget movies. Thankfully, this movie bombed exponentially. A dwindling fan-base and lacklustre execution forced the final instalment into straight-to-TV exile. The third installment is somehow worse than Divergent and Insurgent. It commits several crimes. Most of all, it steals wholeheartedly from Harry Potter and The Hunger Games  without hiding it. Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ansel Elgort and Miles Teller are hindered by silly material and confusing plotting.

7. Bad Santa 2

"Bad Santa 2" Day 23Bad Santa 2 is one of two atrocious comedy-sequels on this list. About 10 minutes into this one, I began contemplating where my life was headed. Billy Bob Thornton’s newfound fame – thanks to Fargo and Goliath – spurred on the creation of this mindless wreck. Like most comedy-sequels, this copies and pastes whole scenes, plot-lines, character arcs and jokes from the original. Tony Cox returns to highlight the downward slope his career has taken. In addition, Kathy Bates joins the cast as Thornton’s mother (talk about fantasy!). The original’s shock-value is replaced with deeply unfunny and offensive gags.

6. Sausage Party

maxresdefaultProducer/performer Seth Rogen re-teams with creative partner Evan Goldberg for another loud, brash comedy. This time around, the pair take aim at Pixar/Dreamworks with disastrous results. The movie’s premise, although intriguing, runs out of steam early on. The movie blatantly copies Toy Story‘s living-inanimate-objects gimmick without the fun, boisterous style. The joke wears out quickly. The comedy is reduced to expletives and lazy sexual references. At this point, Rogen and co. should know better. Worse still, the finale delivers the worst off all worlds for a tasteless orgy sequence that feels 10 hours long.

5. Criminal 

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Criminal represents the very worst of action cinema and blockbuster filmmaking today. Talented A-listers including Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Oldman are dragged down by this lame, despicable and mean-spirited sci-fi/thriller/actioner. The far-fetched premise is driven into the ground by the execution. Costner plays a borderline-disabled prisoner selected for a secret-operations program involving another person’s memories being planted into his brain. From there, his horrific lead character injures and kills innocent people without quit. Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot are also stranded thanks to wasted material.

4. Mother’s Day 

mothersday_trailer2The late Garry Marshall rounded out his career with one regrettable project after another. Valentine’s Day, New Years Eve and Mother’s Day turned audiences into suckers, taking everyone’s money and offering nothing in return. Like the preceding holiday-themed movies, Mother’s Day follows multiple plot-lines and characters over one particular day of the year. The movie’s lack of focus or emotional heft is obvious. Marshall’s latest is hamstrung by the budget, looking almost like a student film. Basic filmmaking rules are squandered, while the cast cashes their egregious paycheques. Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston and co. barely escape with their careers in tact.

3. Grimsby

13-grimsbySasha Baron Cohen’s career started promisingly thanks to Ali G, Borat and Bruno. His shock-fuelled humour and faux-documentary stylings made for hilarious adventures. However, The Dictator and Grimsby prove he has nothing left in tank. Like Adam Sandler, Cohen pulls out the cliches for a paycheque and vacation to an exotic paradise. This time, he drags noted character-actor Mark Strong, wife Isla Fisher and knockout Penelope Cruz down with him. The movie throws out a collection of preposterous gross-out gags and mediocre pop-culture references. Digs at Donald Trump, FIFA and Daniel Radcliffe are borderline offensive without being even vaguely clever.

2. Zoolander 2

titleWriter, director and actor Ben Stiller spent years listening to requests for another Zoolander installment. This follow-up to the 2001 sleeper hit showcases the A-lister’s cynicism and fatigue. Stiller stars as everyone’s favourite dumbass male model, re-teaming with Hansel (Owen Wilson) to take on Mugatu (Will Ferrell). This lazy, shallow cash-grab shows off just how little these actors care. Wilson and Ferrell are stranded thanks to contractual obligation. Like many sequels, this one slouches through an uninspired spy-caper plot minus joy or laughs. Stiller’s pet project resembles Hollywood greed turned up to 11. This parade of celebrity cameos, cheap gags and dull performances is excruciating.

1. Dirty Grandpa

maxresdefault-1Veteran performer Robert De Niro, over the past 20 years, has delivered a string of flops. The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle birthed a new era of veteran actors taking quick paycheques. Dirty Grandpa is the epicentre of awful. De Niro and Zac Efron look to be destroying their own careers. De Niro shouts out harsh, vulgar, inappropriate, sexists and homophobic comments every milisecond. Efron is pushed to the sidelines as the 73-year-old embarrasses himself and becomes a shell of his former self. This hate-filled movie is pure, unadulterated and uncut anti-cinema.

Dishonourable mentions:

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Legend of Tarzan, The Boss, The Danish Girl, The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Alice Through the Looking Glass, Now You See Me 2, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Mr Right, Warcraft, Ben-Hur, Independence Day: Resurgence, Inferno, Keeping Up with the Joneses, The Bronze, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Me Before You, London Has Fallen, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, Why Him?.

Biggest Disappointments:

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Jason Bourne, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, Concussion, Bad Neighbours 2, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, X-Men: Apocalypse, How to Be Single, Money Monster, Office Christmas Party, The BFG, War Dogs, Free State of Jones, Snowden, The Girl on the Train, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, The Accountant, Keanu, The Finest Hours, Jane Got a Gun, Ride Along 2, The Infiltrator, Pete’s Dragon, Allied, A Bigger Splash, Joe Cinque’s Consolation, Kung Fu Panda 3, Trumbo, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.

Reshoot & Rewind’s Top 10 Movies for 2016


2016 was a year shrouded in darkness. We faced Donald Trump’s presidential run and eventual win, Brexit’s rise to prominence, natural disasters and a slew of major celebrity deaths. In addition, cinema from across the globe had a year we would like to forget. The majority of the comedies, blockbusters and most-anticipated entries were met with a collective shrug. It seemed there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Thank God it is over!

However, this year’s gems lay below the surface. Independent cinema and high-profile dramas became part of a mini-renaissance. Oscar contenders including Room, Spotlight, Carol, Steve Jobs and The Hateful Eight launched 2016 in a positive direction. Musicals including La La Land, Moana and Sing Street put a spring in our steps and flutters in our hearts. Animated features Zootopia, Kubo and the Two Strings and Finding Dory received glowing reviews. Meanwhile, action flicks like Captain America: Civil War, Star Trek: Beyond, and Deepwater Horizon gave us hope.

This list pulls together the best of the best (from my point of view, of course). My picks are based on cinema experience, genuine enjoyment factor and overall quality. In a divisive year overall, these films stood above and beyond the competition to make decent critical and commercial responses.

lead_96010. Hell or High Water

Hell or High Water provides a glimmer of hope that the western genre can stay relevant for years to come. The movie sees two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) robbing banks throughout middle-of-nowhere America to stake their claim over their deceased mother’s patch of land. This western-drama was significantly more exciting and meaningful than most (if not all) of 2016’s blockbuster fare. Its gritty aesthetic and bleak outlook on the future combine with aplomb. Director David Mackenzie and writer Taylor Sheridan come together to develop a tough, morally-ambiguous and compelling look at middle America in the midst of tough economic and social times.

maxresdefault9. The Nice Guys

Writer/director Shane Black, fresh off of Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise viagra Iron Man 3, comes back home with fun and enlightening and tough neo-noir/buddy-cop entry The Nice Guys. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling portray bumbling and cynical private investigators assigned to the same investigation. Their journey then turns into a bright, wondrous miasma of twists and turns. Despite a silly plot, the movie thrives thanks to Black’s imaginative style and snarky attitude. Every line of dialogue progresses the plot and adds depth to each character. In addition, his use of colour and lighting fits the time period. Crowe and Gosling are worth the admission cost alone.

8. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

1200Hunt for the Wilderpeople, undoubtedly, proves New Zealand has one of the most unique and intelligent cinema industries working today. This action-comedy follows a juvenile delinquent’s move from the inner city to lush, green farmland. Forced into a faux-family situation, he becomes accustomed to his new foster parents before heading off on a grand adventure. Writer/director Taika Waititi (Boy, What We Do In the Shadows) brings his fun, vibrant brand of humour to the table. Julian Dennison shines as the aforementioned minor forced between a rock and a hard place. His story aptly highlights the transition from reluctant anti-hero to optimistic youngster. Sam Neill also entertains as the old, crotchety foster dad along for the ride.

7. Captain America: Civil War 

captain-america-civil-warCaptain America: Civil War illustrated the ambitiousness and brute strength of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The 13th MCU installment sees Captain America and Iron Man divide our favourite superheroes into two distinctive factions. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo develop two evenly matched sides with important things to say about the core themes. In addition, their action sequences are top notch. The airport and hallway smackdowns will go down in history as instant classics. In addition, the ending throws our likeable band of characters up in the air. More importantly, this installment easily eclipsed similar fare including Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad and X-Men: Apocalypse.

6. Chasing Asylum

7470054-4x3-700x525Chasing Asylum delves into the darkest depths of Australian foreign policy and refugee statuses. The movie provides unrequited access to some of the country’s most controversial and secretive offshore processing centres. Producer and director Eva Orner delivers never-before-seen footage, covering everything from refugee mistreatment to security negligence. More impressively, she finds and uncovers a slew of whistle-blowers and experts to speak out about the issue. The movie, of course, despises the Liberal and Labor Governments’ decisions over the past 15 years. However, Orner and co. refuse to condemn anyone in particular. Chasing Asylum covers the biggest and smallest details to create a harrowing portrait of said monstrous issue.

5. La La Land

19212016121340pm1Writer/director Damien Chazelle, at the tender age of 31, has already directed two high-profile features securing Oscar consideration. Following up sublime 2014 drama Whiplash, Chazelle delivers a fun, bright ode to the history of Hollywood cinema. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling re-team for the tale of a struggling actress/writer and jazz musician coming together and falling apart spectacularly. The movie plays out in two halves. First off, our leads begin a prosperous relationship to the tune of sunshine and optimism. However, the eventual decline is equally thrilling and resonant. Several musical numbers – including ‘Another Day of Sun’ and ‘City of Stars’ – become earworms worthy of multiple listens.

4. Hacksaw Ridge

andrew-garfield-hacksaw-ridgeTo quote South Park: “Say what you want about Mel Gibson, the son of a bitch knows story structure”. The controversial actor/director returns with Hacksaw Ridge, chronicling history, religion, and courage with verve. Andrew Garfield shines as Private Desmond Doss, a soldier in World War II who never picked up a gun. The movie covers every important detail of Doss’s extraordinary journey. His romance, conflicts with military personnel during training and eventual battlefield heroics are captured effortlessly by Gibson and co. With something to say and even more to do, Hacksaw Ridge proves war movies are still as prevalent and entertaining as ever. Sublime supporting performances by Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington round out this harrowing epic.

3. Nocturnal Animals

nocturnal-animalsWriter/director/high-end fashion designer Tom Ford returns to filmmaking, after critically-acclaimed first feature A Single Man, with raw psychological-thriller Nocturnal Animals. Amy Adams, fresh off Arrival and Batman v. Superman this year, plays an art gallery curator tired of her boring, flat existence. Struggling to maintain her business and marriage, she dives head-long into her ex’s latest manuscript. This is only one part of the movie. The movie soon turns into a nasty, gritty revenge tale. Jake Gyllenhaal pulling out all the stops as a victim turned vigilante. Ford’s sublime direction extends to the performances, visual style and overtones. Thanks to his unique eye, each frame is coated in glorious colours and patterns throughout.

2. Arrival

arrival1The majority of alien-invasion movies either resemble loud disaster epics (Independence Day) or bright, fun fantasy flicks (ET: The Extra Terrestrial). Arrival is a new, thought-provoking and inspiring brand of Hollywood feature. Amy Adams (having a cracking 2016) plays a noteworthy linguist assigned to a top-secret military outpost to communicate with the inhabitants of an alien spaceship hovering above the ground. The story, characters, effects and themes combine effortlessly throughout Arrival. The movie lives and dies on Adams’ character, forcing herself into trouble to assist herself, her colleagues and humanity. Director Denis Villeneuve’s bleak, atmospheric style separates him from the majority of blockbuster filmmakers. The movie’s questions leave room for intense discussion from audiences the world over.

1. Spotlight

spotlight-movieDocudrama Spotlight overcame The Revenant, Mad Max: Fury Road and a slew of other acclaim-worthy competitors to win the Academy Award for Best Picture earlier this year. Writer/director Tom McCarthy delivers a grueling and truly satisfying look at one of the world’s most prominent professions. The story chronicles the Boston Globe’s investigation into a slew of sexual misconduct cases involving the Catholic Church throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. The movie dives into an uncomfortable topic with class and textbook precision. McCarthy’s subdued style looks at the meat-and-potatoes of newspaper journalism in an era of immense transition. Most importantly, performers including Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo and Liev Schreiber perfectly portray these true-life superheroes. Spotlight is essential viewing.

Honourable mentions:

The Edge of Seventeen, Deepwater Horizon, The Witch, Don’t Breathe, Sing Street, Star Trek: Beyond, Goldstone, Everybody Wants Some!!, Steve Jobs, The Founder, Midnight Special, Zootopia, Miles Ahead, The End of the Tour, Room, Brooklyn, Carol, The Hateful Eight, SullyEye in the Sky, Weiner, Moana.

Pleasant surprises:

Rogue One: A Star Wars StoryFinding DoryThe Magnificent Seven, Bad Moms, Central Intelligence, Where To Invade NextThe Conjuring 2, Bastille Day, The Jungle Book, 10 Cloverfield LaneThe Legend of Barney Thomson, The Big Short, Green Room, Eddie the Eagle, Deadpool, Doctor Strange, Hail Caesar!, Triple 9, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Barbershop: The Next Cut, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, The Shallows, The Purge: Election Year, The Light Between Oceans, Ghostbusters, Blood Father, The Daughter, Anomalisa, Looking for Grace, The Revenant, Sisters.

Why I’m not on-board the Redmayne Train


It is easy to confuse three of Great Britain’s best actors working today – Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston and Eddie Redmayne. Cumberbatch, thanks to everything from Doctor Strange to 12 Years a Slave, has developed a sterling reputation. His weird and wonderful performances showed off a bright personality. Indeed, over the past few years, the actor has starred in almost everything. Along with his star-making turn on Saturday Night Live last month, the performer has stepped out of his heroes’ shadows and become a solid A-lister.

Hiddleston is a multi-talented performer and all-around jokester. Like Cumberbatch, Hiddleston’s internet fame relies on gifs and memes. His turns as Loki in the Avengers flicks, along with numerous independent flicks and out-there character-dramas, have also assisted the British Thespian. Admirably, Hiddleston and Cumberbatch have extended their talents to London’s West End (whenever they get time off from tinseltown).

Redmayne, on paper, has yielded critical and commercial acclaim. Statistically speaking, very few actors ever have had everlasting success in Hollywood. He deserves praise for achieving what so many try at and fail to accomplish. However, does he deserve it? On the one hand, his earlier performances in My Week With Marilyn and Les Miserables are noteworthy. The performer once turned seemingly indistinguishable characters into charming rogues.

In those performances, his off-screen charm came to the fore. On the Graham Norton/late night show format, Redmayne provides (coasts by on) a fresh smile and cute stories about his career. More often than not, his appearances are worth tuning in to. He also engages with the other guests better than most seasoned A-listers do. His Graham Norton Show appearances alongside the likes of Jennifer lawrence and Bryan Cranston make for series highlights.

So, what is going wrong on screen? For one, he is continually sidelined with woeful material. On paper, Jupiter Ascending, Fantastic Beasts, The Theory of Everything and The Danish Girl are interesting choices. In execution, they all suck. In his defense, even the best actors could not save those particular projects from their woeful direction and messy scripting. Maybe it’s his agent’s fault after all…

The four aforementioned stinkers have turned me away from Redmayne as a performer. Jupiter Ascending is, of course, an inconsequential mess of biblical proportions. The Wachowski siblings have only deliver one worthwhile movie (The Matrix…17 years ago). Since then, their pride and ambition have continually tripped them up. Jupiter Ascending is the worst of the bunch. Redmayne’s tiresome performance sums it up – laughable and over-the-top without purpose. Taking a turn into villainy, Redmayne makes (theoretically) interesting choices. Some lines are whispered, others are screamed in a high-pitched wail. His waspish, wimpy persona makes for a stereotypical Gary Oldman-villain turn without anything going on beneath the surface.

Of course, The Theory of Everything placed him directly in the spotlight. He picked up the Oscar for Best Actor and never looked back, leaving Birdman (Or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) star Michael Keaton without that elusive golden statue. As you could probably guess, I believe Keaton should have won it that year. Keaton poured his soul into that performance – expertly playing a washed-up, over-the-hill performer with one more breath left to give. Despite the mixed reception to the movie, everyone praised Keaton’s magnetic performance and return to A-list status. Of course, typical docudrama/Oscar bait saw Theory of Everything‘s star cross the line first.

The Danish Girl was even more egregious and disastrous than the latter movies. Director Tom Hooper, fresh off overrated misfire The King’s Speech and slightly-better Les Miserables, wanted to grab another golden statues with both hands. He failed spectacularly. In this case, Redmayne is underserved, nay obliterated, by Hooper’s annoying direction and the screenplay’s pure sappiness. Redmayne is thrown into a wholly underwritten role. Playing a transgender, true-life figure, his role and performance should have knocked it out of the park. However, the IT-actor is left to give an array of over-the-top flourishes.

Of course, Redmayne is a rich, acclaimed actor working on his own career and life. Hollywood is certainly a treacherous stretch of terrain for everyone, and he seems to be handling fame well. Future projects may indeed give Redmayne his first 100% beloved performance. However, he is currently walking a tightrope between sensitivity and a sub-par Hugh Grant impression. For now, we’re left to fear what franchise or hot property he will be involved in next.

Arrival Review: Inner space


Director: Denis Villeneuve

Writer: Eric Heisserer (screenplay), Ted Chiang (short story)

Stars: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg

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Release date: November 10th, 2016

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 116 minutes


4½/5

Best part: Adams’ compelling performance.

Worst part: Some dodgy CGI.

In Hollywood, aliens typically come in two forms. Sometimes, they are tentacled monsters hell-bent on obliterating humanity (Predator). Other times, they remind us about peace and love (ET: The Extra Terrestrial). The movies either resemble popcorn-fuelled blockbusters or more calming fare. Arrival undoubtedly falls into the latter category.

Arrival leaps away from stereotypical alien-invasion material. The movie, vying for critics’ recognition over box-office dollars, is worth the largest audience imaginable. It’s worth extended hours of discussion and contemplation. The plot follows university linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) stranded in the present. crushed by her daughter’s loss and ex-husband’s neglect, her cynicism reaches breaking point. However, on a seemingly normal day, twelve extraterrestrial spaceships hover over key sites around the world. Nicknamed ‘shells’ by the US military, the ships do little besides open their doors every eighteen hours. Their reasons for landing are wholly unclear. Louise is recruited by US Army Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) to form a team to clarify the aliens’ intentions. Joined by theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), the team studies a shell hovering in Montana.

Besides 2014’s Edge of Tomorrow, viewers must travel back to the 1970s and 80s for a truly engaging and interesting invasion epic. Arrival resembles the type of cinematic masterpiece seldom replicated by filmmakers or seen by audiences today. Director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Sicario) and screenwriter Eric Heisserer grasp short story author Ted Chiang’s original material (Story of Your Life). The two deliver the year’s most thought-provoking blockbuster; a movie with enough to do and say simultaneously. Villeneuve and Heisserer’s shared vision immediately kicks into gear. The deliberate pacing and tone may deter wider audiences looking for shootouts and explosions. Here, conversation and action are equally important. The story explores the values of incisive decision-making and processing. Louise and Ian, continually entering the ship and contacting aliens ‘Abbott’ and ‘Costello’, craft a plan to understand the otherworldly language. Its professionals-doing-their-jobs narrative is utterly compelling.

Villeneuve’s atmospheric direction delivers some of 2016’s most compelling sequences. His version of time travel works wonders. Unlike similar fare (Interstellar), the leaps in time and space are never distracting. Louise, experiencing flashbacks to her daughter’s slow demise, sees a puzzle forming in her mind. By the third act, she compellingly connects the dots to find her way. The movie develops several well-rounded perspectives. Along with Louise and Ian’s glowing optimism, we see wise alien beings, careful military types (led by Weber and Agent Halpern (Michael Stuhlbarg)), fearful, right-wing soldiers and foreign military prowess. Like his previous works, Villeneuve draws phenomenal performances from Hollywood élite. Adams, with this and Nocturnal Animals, earns serious Oscar contention as the movie’s heart and soul. Renner and Whitaker deliver likeable turns in smaller roles.

Villeneuve and co.’s vivacious approach separates it from all other 2016 blockbusters. Arrival is a bleak yet optimistic dissection of humanity. Right now, like the movie’s events, the world is on the brink of anarchy and despair. If there was ever a need for intelligent discussion, it is now.

Verdict: A groundbreaking journey.