Movie Review – Official Secrets

TL;DR – A powerful exploration of what happens when all the institutions that are meant to protect us from abuse of power fail   

Score – 4 out of 5 stars

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Official Secrets. Image Credit: Universal.

Review

There are films that are perfectly timed in their release, sometimes it is the world shifting around you, sometimes you get lucky and just so happen to be shining a light on something that is about to come to the foreground, and sometimes it is always good to be reminded of speaking truth to power. Well, today we get a film that does all three of those as it explores the absolute mess that was the justifications for the Iraq War. A mess that America, UK, Australia, and others found themselves in through no one’s fault but their own.

So to set the scene, in 2003 the world was on the cusp of war as America in the wake of September 11 has set its sights on a new foe Iraq. Not happy to just sit and wait for the weapon inspectors to do their jobs, they were placing enormous pressure on the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution allowing the war. As this is happening, Katharine Gun (Keira Knightley) was working in the UK’s signal intelligence agency GCHQ as a translator, when she receives a memo from her superiors asking them to support NSA efforts to pressure UNSC diplomates to vote for the war. As this goes against her job and is quite possibly illegal, she takes a copy of the memo and gives it to a trusted friend to see if it is as bad as she thought it was, and well it was.

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Movie Review – The Laundromat

TL;DR – A film with good intentions that nevertheless ends up talking down to its audience rather than empowering them as it is trying to do.    

Score – 3 out of 5 stars

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

The Laundromat. Image Credit: Netflix.

Review

I think it is a good description of the world at the moment that a couple of years ago one of the biggest leaks of information that changed how we look at the entire banking sector and we have kind of forgotten about it. The Panama Papers was this huge revelation but it is almost surprising that we have not seen anyone try to encapsulate it in media form before now. Well, today we look at a film that does just that, in a weird, slightly absurdist way.

So to set the scene, we open in on Ellen Martin (Meryl Streep) who along with her husband Joe (James Cromwell) is starting the celebrations of their wedding anniversary by taking a boat tour of a local lake. Tragedy strikes when Captain Richard Paris (Robert Patrick) misses a rogue wave and is not able to turn the boat in time causing it to capsize killing Joe and many others. Ellen’s grief is amplified when they find out while the boat tour company thought they were insured, it was all fraud, a fake company, based out of a shell corporation, hidden behind a trust. Leading her down the well of how the wealthy hide their money.

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TV Review – The Expanse: Season 3

TL;DR – This is and continues to be the gold standard to adaptations of literature, capturing the heart of the books, even if it does not hit every plot beat along the way.  

Score – 4.5 out of 5 stars

The Expanse. Image Credit: Amazon Studios.

Review

I mentioned back in my look at the New Golden Age of Science Fiction that The Expanse is one of the best adaptations on TV at the moment. Here in Australia, I got to watch the first two seasons on Netflix and was constantly entranced with just what a good job they did of bringing James S. A. Corey’s books to life. The third season has been tricky to find but today I was able to hunt it down on Amazon and gave it a watch. Well, how does it do? Well, I can tell you that I watched the entire first arc of the season in one session, being so completely engrossed that I didn’t realise how late in the evening it had gotten … so that it is always a good sign.

So to set the scene, we open in the aftermath of season two and the turn that put Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) from a position of absolute power to her running for her life after being betrayed by Sadavir Errinwright (Shawn Doyle). Stuck on a ship that has just been fired upon by her own side there is not much hope for escape but then that is why she brought Bobbie Draper (Frankie Adams) a former Martian marine along. They manage to escape, but they are still under pursuit, and while they were gone the whole solar system has erupted into war and the Jupiter planetary system is ground zero for the conflict. Meanwhile, on the Rocinante the crew are dealing with two big problems, the fact that Naomi (Dominique Tipper) lied to them, and they have done nothing really to help Prax (Terry Chen) find his daughter. With everything falling apart the question is: will James Holden (Steven Strait) going to step in and help stop this war, or is he going to sit back and let others make the tough calls?    

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TV Review – Bard of Blood

TL;DR – This an interesting spy series which is unfortunately held back a bit with inconsistent pacing and the flow-on effects from that.  

Score – 3 out of 5 stars

Bard of Blood. Image Credit: Netflix.

Review

One of my goals this year has been to expand my global cinema intake from places away from the traditional English speaking countries that I am used to. I have not been as successful as I would have liked, but when a new Indian spy thriller drops on Netflix you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Now I have finished it, wow, is this series a lot, and I think it might also have lasting repercussions.

So to set the scene, in Balochistan, Pakistan, a group of Indian deep-cover spies are in a lude video internet café using it as a cover as they upload important information back to New Delhi. However, before they can finish, they are captured by the local Taliban. Before they can be executed the Pakistani Intelligence forces intercede and save then, not to keep them alive, but to kill them at the right time and place. Back in India, one of the chiefs in India’s Intelligence bureau Sadiq (Rajit Kapur) feels that something is odd so he seeks out Kabir Anand (Emraan Hashmi) code name Adonis but there is bad blood between them over what happened last time in Pakistan. He instead sends Isha (Sobhita Dhulipala) to retrieve him, however, Sadiq is murdered in his home and Adonis is framed, and only he might be able to save the agents because there is a mole in the Indian government and he does not know who they might be. Now from here, we will be looking at the season as a whole so there will be [SPOILERS] ahead.

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Movie Review – Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

TL;DR – A solid horror film, with a good premise that meanders a bit in the middle before coming back strong in the end.   

Score – 3 out of 5 stars

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Image Credit: Universal.

Review

I have to admit that I am not as big of a horror aficionado as a lot of the critics out there. I prefer the tension and suspense of a film like Get Out over a horror gorefest. However, I have made it a plan to try and broaden the films I see and also if you ever want me to see a film having the story by Guillermo del Toro is a great way to do it. With that in mind let’s have a look at a film that champions what goes bump in the night.

In 1968 a lot of things are happening, the Vietnam War is in full swing, Richard Nixon is up for re-election, and in a small town called Mill Valley in Pennsylvania, the local residents are getting ready for Halloween. Stella (Zoe Colletti) does not want to go out but is coaxed out by her friends Auggie (Gabriel Rush) and Chuck (Austin Zajur) because this might be their last Halloween together. After running into local bully Tommy (Austin Abrams) who is on a date with Chuck’s sister Ruthie (Natalie Ganzhorn) they hide in Ramón’s (Michael Garza) car. Ramón is from out of town, so Stella suggests they take him to the Bellows’ House, the town’s local haunted house. Legend says that the family that founded the town locked their daughter Sarah (Kathleen Pollard) in the basement but she would tell stories through the wall to local children and then the kids would die. Everything is going fine until Stella finds a book, a book of Sarah’s stories, a book that is still writing more stories one by one.

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Movie Review – Bird Box

TL;DR – There are moments of real suspense, and Sandra Bullock is amazing, but the structure of the story holds it back by revealing its hand too soon.      

Score – 3 out of 5 stars

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Bird Box. Image Credit: Netflix.

Review

2018 has been a good year for the suspense thriller/ horror films, we have built on the strengths of 2017, a produced such amazing films as A Quiet Place (see review) and Cargo (see review). I bring A Quiet Place up because after the first few minutes you can tell that this is the film Bird Box is going to be compared to the most, and that is not entirely unfair. As they are both suspense post-apocalyptic films where you have to cover one of your senses to survive i.e. sound, or in this case sight. However, this was less the case of copying a more the case of producers seeing that suspense films are back (also they never left but that is an issue for another day) and optioning different books at around the same time. However, while it is a bit unfair to compare the two while watching you can’t help but do so, especially when the differences between the two are probably the reasons why I liked one more than the other.

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Movie Review – Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle

TL;DR – While at times this film has moments of technical brilliance, huge issues with tone, and a story we already know to death means that the film ends up being just dull.     

Score – 2 out of 5 stars

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle. image Credit: Netflix

Review

There are warning signs in the industry that happens sometimes that lets you know a studio is not really confident with what they are about to release. This could be not screening it for critiques,or putting an embargo on reviews before release, or in this day and age it is a film suddenly disappearing from the cinema schedule and being sold off to Netflix. Now, this is not always a case of it being a bad film, just a case of the distributors not knowing what they have, see this year’s Annihilation(see review). However,today we look at a film that probably falls squarely into this category.

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