Honourable mentions go to two films released this week which we’ve already covered at Sydney Film Festival – Benedict Andrew‘s screen debut Una, which is supposedly excellent but against which I am biased because of Andrews’ theatrical history in Sydney and the density of serious dramas Aussies too often make; and A Quiet Passion, which I’m told is boring as poo.
Don’t worry, guys, our first film this week is a whole long way from being a show stopper…
TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT
Oh Jesus, they’ve roped Sir Anthony Hopkins into this idiocy. As Sir Edmund Burton, no less, who Wikipedia tells me is an astronomer but I’m *pretty sure* is the first Prime Minister of Australia. And in the time it’s taken for me to write this article, the RT rating has dropped to a staggering 17% – the few positive reviews see it as campy parody, an uncharacteristically generous assertion.
So our honourable PM is a historian of the Transformers’ time on Earth, and Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), the worst named protagonist of all time, is somehow dragged back into the war ‘twixt man and machine, and Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) is brainwashed or something and there’s a Transformers Reaction Force who don’t like robots and a Megan Fox lookalike and ah god I just can’t even begin to care.
So totally lacking in self-awareness has this series become that when director Michael Bay decided to dive into the past (retconning the Transformers into key historical moments), he went so far as to dress Blenheim Palace – Winston Churchill’s home – in Nazi swastika flags for production. When veterans took umbrage, his genuine response was Trumpian: ‘I love veterans, I’ve made films about veterans, I’ve made all the best films about veterans’. STOP GIVING HIM MONEY.
Also this, from The Guardian: “The Last Knight… sees the return of Mark Wahlberg and Stanley Tucci to the franchise. They are joined by Anthony Hopkins and Freya, an epileptic Staffordshire bull terrier once dubbed ‘Britain’s loneliest dog’.”
tl;dr Your childhood, Winston Churchill’s memory, blockbuster filmmaking forever…
Alright… ok, I’m a little less angry now. On to Pixar‘s Cars, the only saga they ever created featuring anthropomorphised machines and the only saga they’ve made that’s been poorly received. Are we beginning to see a pattern here, folks?
Hilariously, Cars 2 was such an abysmal flop that the company are attempting to retcon it and act as if it never happened. So Cars 3 ignores the World Grand Prix story arc of 2011 and returns to the Piston Cup, where an aging Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) finds himself outgunned by supercharged newcomer Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) and crashes violently while trying to overtake him.
The best responses refer to the mentor/protégé relationship between McQueen and Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), who may offer a future for the franchise if and when McQueen should ever retire. It’s proven stronger than its predecessors, garnering it some much-needed respect in the overall Pixar ouvre.
tl;dr Cars 3: Tokyo Drift
Sliding Doors popularised this mode of storytelling some years back (itself adapting the Polish film Blind Chance), and it’s proven an effective narrative structure for young filmmakers determined to make a name for themselves.
This one is helmed by Christopher Smith, auteur behind Creep, Black Death and Severance, who’s picked up rising star Tye Sheridan (star of the worst movie I’ve reviewed for The BRAG) as the lead in his alternate realities thriller. In one timeline, Harper (Sheridan) pays pro crim Johnny Ray (Emory Cohen) to ‘solve the problem’ of Vincent (Stephen Moyer), Harper’s vicious stepfather. In the other, Harper and Johnny part ways, but Harper’s decisions lead him down an even darker road, with Johnny’s girlfriend Cherry (Bel Powley) along for the ride.
The jury’s still out on this one, but it seems few critics were completely turned off by this attempt at shaking up traditional noir structures. I’d say this looks like low-expectations fun.
tl;dr Yep, Western noir is a genre now.
DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: THE LONG HAUL
The worst reviews referred to this adaptation of the long running family series as “a toxic misstep“, “one of the worst films of the year“, “clumsy and joyless” and – wait for it – “A dirge of unfunny scatological material, techno-anxiety and child endangerment masquerading as familial bonding”. Need I say more.
OK I WILL. The Long Haul is the fourth iteration in the Diary Of A Wimpy Kid series, and the first to see the entire family replaced, with Jason Drucker replacing Zachary Gordon as the titular wimp (presumably as Gordon had grown too old/swole).
The series has never punched above average, but the latest entry sees it dive into a death spiral from which it is unlikely to recover. It’s a shame for fans of the hugely popular books. The rest of us will survive.
tl;dr Never thought I’d say it, but the best family film this week is Cars.
HEY GUYS IT’S MORE CAR STUFF. What is this, Top Gear? Oh, no, wait, I haven’t said anything racist yet. Enough about the Brits – this is the tale of renowned Kiwi Bruce McLaren, the youngest driver to ever win a Grand Prix.
McLaren, the namesake behind the most successful team in Formula One championship history, was known as both a potent racer and a pioneering engineer, taking to his cars with shears when he felt it necessary. He was tragically killed while testing a new car at high speed in 1970, at just 32 years old.
By all accounts, this portrait by Roger Donaldson (The World’s Fastest Indian, Dante’s Peak) was always going to be one for the revheads – if you’re already familiar with McLaren and his legacy, you probably already have your ticket. The layman may develop a new appreciation for racing and its heroes, but those with little interest in the sport are best served elsewhere.
Oh, this reminds me… Car Boys ended last month and you should definitely watch it. This may be insensitive timing on my part.
tl;dr MOAR CARS.
And now for THE VERDICT – maybe you only get to see one of these flicks on the big screen, and you don’t wanna waste that night out. So, drum roll please…