Destroyer review

As it neared the ending, I had a thought that 'Destroyer' (2019) was a kind of remake of 'Bad Lieutenant' (1992)

It’s not that simple and not quite as harrowing, but Nicole Kidman rivals Harvey Keitel in her performance as a bad cop. 

As Detective Erin Bell she shows occupational hazards, including alcoholism and distant family and corruption.

Part of the appeal of watching this film was the frumpy twist on the usual icy Hitchcock-blonde-type role Kidman might normally inhabit. Here that aloofness is like a wounded animal.

Another part is Karyn Kusama’s direction, which draws on a long tradition of noir-style LA police thrillers.

When I read Kusama had a mentor in John Sayles, I better understood the seamless way her films can shift from past to present (particularly 'The Invitation' (2015)). 

(Sayles’ film 'Lone Star' (1996) has a wonderful style that uses pans between scenes to underscore the relationships between characters and their histories.)

The uncertainty of whether a scene is past or present is part of the storytelling in 'Destroyer' and, like many detective movies, the audience follows the lead character in attempting to get to the centre of a mystery.

In this case the detective is bleary-eyed and trying to piece together fragments from between gaps in memories, like 'Memento' (2000).

The result is somewhat disorienting but the strength of Kidman’s character kept my interest and the sense of how stresses hollow-out a stone made her performance memorable. 

8/10

The Merger review

'The Merger' is a local film that's now finding a new audience on Netflix and I regret not seeing it with an audience and sharing their recognition of the Riverina

The plot follows interpersonal politics of a small-town football club as they resolve grief and regret, as well as avoid losing their identity.

Their season is saved by recruiting new players from the migrant community, after recognising their diverse skills and desire to be part of the town.

Working with a predictable collection of characters, this film is a nuanced representation of masculinity as the plot follows a series of emotional arcs framed by sporting scenes.

'The Merger' is really creative in showing character development and kinda conflicts with memory of a news story from that region, where a team was taken to court for urinating on the main street of a neighbouring town.

It was also disorienting that Ganmain was often filmed from the opposite side of the train tracks, so there was an element of going into a 'looking glass' and seeing a reversed image of local landmarks.

I realise now the crux of the film is inverting local binaries by comparing experiences of personal loss. This film has an incredible heart, as well as mild and good-natured humour.

9/10

The Platform review

I haven’t watched so many movies but The Platform is probably my favourite release this year

The film follows Goreng as he makes sense of a "Vertical Self-Management Centre,” a kind of prison built into a tower where inmates are randomly assigned to floors for 30-day periods. 

A distinctive feature of the setting is a sort of dumb-waiter that delivers meals from a kitchen at the top, with each floor having limited access to food as it descends.

Inmates at the top get first pick, while those at the bottom either starve or resort to desperate means to survive.

Described as “social science fiction” this film is a lot of things. 

Horror elements sit within a theatrical setting that ultimately reveals itself as a metaphor for trickle-down economics.

8/10 

The Host review

This monster movie breaks convention early on by showing the creature in broad daylight

Wikipedia says 'The Host' was inspired by a local article about a deformed fish with an S-shaped spine caught in the Han River; and an incident in 2000, when a mortician working for the U.S. military reported he was ordered to dump a large amount of formaldehyde down a drain.

"Because of its themes, which can be seen as critical of the United States, the film was lauded by North Korean authorities, a rarity for a South Korean blockbuster film"!

There are few scares and little gore, because the real monsters are people and from the opening scene you learn they're often American doctors.

The film includes many characteristics of Bong Joon-Ho movies, such as slapstick in unlikely moments, as well as a dark turn in the second half.

A couple of chase scenes in 'The Host' could be drafts for those in his later film 'Okja' (which benefits from having a much bigger scope in the storytelling) but this film is remarkable for what they've achieved with a small-ish budget.

7/10 

My year in 60 seconds

Mother review

A mother seeking to save her son from prison offers great motivation for the main character in this film

Bong Joon-ho's ‘Parasite’ brought him wider attention (as well as Academy Awards) and I've found his earlier films interesting for the same focus on class struggle, as well as subversive characters.

There's a Hitchcock influence in ‘Mother’ but, where Alfred was constrained by the Hays Production Code, Bong has opportunity to really challenge an audience's expectations.

The first half of this film is kinda goofy and then the investigation into the case starts to explore darker territory.

8/10

Colossal review

Pitched as 'Godzilla' meets 'Lost In Translation' this is a film that links a small town in Canada with Seoul, South Korea

Watched this last night and, while it's not awesome, it's interesting for being an entertaining mash of genres.

I'll try not to spoil the surprises but you can tell from the trailer that it's a monster movie with comedy, possibly romantic comedy and Anne Hathaway is a good comic actor.

The male characters aren't very well developed, which is a shame because I think it's the audience that would benefit from the serious theme that's developed in the film.

My family seemed to think it was "alright" but, a bit like the Godzilla movies that prompted me to think about geopolitics, I think this film does a good job of putting a thoughtful theme into an entertaining package.

7/10