Movie Review – Mortal Engines

TL;DR – This is a visually impressive film, full of moments that make you go wow, but you can see that they have been held back by fitting the whole first book into the one  film   

Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars

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

Mortal Engines. Image Credit: Universal

Review

The Mortal Engines series is one of those books that I have always been meaning to read but just have never gotten around to it. The idea where cities have become mobile and drive around hunting for prey is one of those conceptional ideas that is just genius, and I have a lot of friends that are super excited to see this world brought to life on the big screen. Add to this the fact that you have the minds behind The Lord of the Rings working to bring this to life and I have to say it definitely piqued my interest. Now that I have seen it, I can say I mostly enjoyed it, even if not everything worked.

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Movie Review – BlacKkKlansman

TL;DR – Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman is at times hilarious, at times deeply provoking, and at no time will it hold your hand as it explores the deep centred racism in America (spoiler: it is not just America)

Score – 4 out of 5 stars

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

BlacKkKlansman. Image Credit: Focus Features/Universal Pictures

Review

I was not one hundred per cent sure what it was that I was getting myself into when I walked into to see BlacKkKlansman. I knew it was about a black police officer infiltrating the KKK and that it was based on a true story but that was about it. Spike Lee is a filmmaker whose work I am unfortunately not that familiar with, so was this going to be a comedy, was it going to play it straight, was it going to do both while being deeper for it? Well with that in mind let’s take a look at the race relations of the 1970s which in no way reflects on America of today … in no way …

So to set the scene, in 1972 Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) is hired as the first black police officer in Colorado Springs. While this is meant to be a step forward for race relations, Ron is hidden away in the records room taking abuse from his fellow police officers. That is until one day an important African-Amerian activist Kwame Ture (Corey Hawkins) comes to town and they need someone to go undercover at the speech and well every other member of the police force would stand out. It is here where he meets Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier) one of the event organisers, and listens to the speech which focuses on promoting the cause of African people from white oppression, up to and including armed resistance. Happy with his success the police decide to move Ron into the intelligence division and on his first day he responds to an ad in the paper about a new KKK chapter starting up in the town. One slight problem, just a small thing really, but it kind of won’t work if they ever have a face to face meeting. So Ron enlists officer Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), Ron is Ron on the phone, and Flip is Ron in person, and all of it flows from there.

Ron Stallworth is making the KKK out to be the fools they are
John David Washington captivates the screen as Ron Stallworth in one of the most bizarre Based on a True Story films I have ever seen. Image Credit: Focus Features/Universal Pictures

The first thing I really appreciated about the film is that right from the start it is very clear about what the subtext, and well sometimes the literal text of the film is. Indeed we open on Alec Baldwin doing a pitch-perfect rendition of a 1970s Alex Jones type character, only with veiled racism replaced with literal unabashed racism. This film is not only a spotlight on one of the more fascinating real-world events that I have heard but also mirror on contemporary society because we are not as far removed from the 1970s as we might like to think we are. All of this is crafted by some truly wonderful performances by actors sometimes playing truly repugnant roles. Now, of course, a lot of the attention has been focused on the two lead actors John David Washington and Adam Driver, and there is a very good reason for that. They command every scene they are in but for very different reasons, John by the very nature of the role he is playing draws your eye every moment he is on screen, and backs that up with one of the more nuanced portrayals that I have seen of someone living in two worlds. Driver is playing a character that is much more reserved, and who reveals small parts of himself over the course of the film. All of this is supported by a supporting cast that helps create a world that both feels like an alien relic of the past but also inescapably familiar today.

It also excels with the themes it is exploring and how they present that for the world to see. The first is the role of the KKK and its members. In many films, it is easy to cast the KKK as stupid rednecks lost in the past because their lack of intelligence, now to be fair, in many cases like Django Unchained that is because they are being used to ridicule the modern KKK, and have at I say. However, here we look at the KKK as it exists in reality, and like many other terrorist or extremist groups, sure there are the fools or those who are just looking for violence, but then there are also those who are incredibly intelligent, and are very capable of creating and implementing tactics to forward their despicable goals. As well as this, I really liked the dissection of the debate around historically corrupt or racist organisations. Can you change them from within, or must you tear them down and start again? It is a question that there is not one clear answer to, and it was interesting to see that discussion play out between Ron and Patrice throughout the film.

Lots of Guns, it is America afterall
Adam Driver continues to show why he is one of this century’s best acting talents. Image Credit: Focus Features/Universal Pictures

All of this is added to with how the film is constructed, filmed, and edited together. There are these moments where they almost create a cinematic bait and switch where they present something as almost benign and then shift the framing to show you just how horrific it really is. Like when the KKK members go for some target practice, for all of that sequence we see everything down range with the targets behind us, with only the sound of bullets hitting metal to indicate something is odd. However, as everyone leaves we spin around and see that what they were firing at were metal cutouts of African children, and horrific caricatures of African children as well. There are also several moments in the film where it almost breaks the fourth wall in a very Brechtian manner. These are moments when BlacKkKlansman moves almost into an educational mode explaining parts of the history of African-Americans that people might not know about like Blaxploitation films or parts of American history that has been almost purposefully suppressed like the practice of lynching. Looking at Spike Lee’s filmography he does have a strong history of making documentaries, and it was really interesting seeing some of those techniques added to a dramatic film. Also, it takes a moment to look at the power of film to shape public option and not always for the better, as The Birth of a Nation the first film shown in the White House directly led to the reformation of the KKK.

However, the one thing that elevates BlacKkKlansman from being a great film into being an excellent one is in its ending, and of course, to talk about the ending of the film there will clearly be [SPOILERS] for the rest of this paragraph. Throughout the film there were these moments where I interpreted it as the film almost winking at the audience, like for example when Sergeant Trapp (Ken Garito) let’s Ron know that some of his contacts told him that David Duke (Topher Grace) the current Grand Wizard of the KKK has been trying to shape the public view of the organisation so that he could better make a run for politics or make sure his candidate of choice made it to the presidency. This along with images of Nixon that the film lingers on just that little bit too long to be accidental and other hints all paint a picture as to who is the key target of the film. However, I thought that it was going to remain at just that hints to the audience, but no. So at the end of the film, there is no real happy ending for any of the characters though we do get one more laugh at David Duke’s expense, and the more mockery of him the better. Just as we are contemplating that lack of a happy ending as a cross burns in the background we hard cut to the events of Charlottesville and President Donald J Trump’s offensive response finally ending on the terrorist attack that happened in the city days later. The attack is shown in all its detail and people go flying through the air as the car hits them. As this played out there was complete silence in the cinema as a wave of shock rippled through the room. I grew up in the era of 9/11 to the point where I thought I had become desensitised to seeing events like this on screen, but it is clear that that is not the case. All throughout the film, there is this tendency to comfortably take all the despicable language and actions of the characters in the film and say, well that is the 1970s, that is not today, but the end of the film is there to not give you that luxury.

A cross burning, while the cowards hide behind their masks.
It could be easy to just think that this was a problem of the 1970s, but the film does not give you that easy out. Image Credit: Focus Features/Universal Pictures

In the end, do we recommend BlacKkKlansman? Yes, yes we do. It is not going to be an easy film to watch by any stretch of the imagination, but I think it is an important one and if there is ever a more pressing time for it, well then I don’t know. Before I leave, I should also note that this is not something where we can just go ‘oh America’ here in Australia as I was writing this very review an Australian Senator used his maiden speech in Parliament to argue for a ban on Islamic immigration, pay tribute to the White Australia Policy, and “The final solution to the immigration problem.” This is an issue we all need to confront across the globe and we need to confront it now.

By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.

Have you watched BlacKkKlansman?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day. 

Trailer – Click Here to View (all trailers have heavy spoilers)

Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of BlacKkKlansman

Directed by – Spike Lee

Screenplay by – Spike Lee, David Rabinowitz, Charlie Wachtel & Kevin Willmott

Based onBlack Klansman by Ron Stallworth

Music by – Terence Blanchard

Cinematography by – Chayse Irvin

Edited by – Barry Alexander Brown

Starring – John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Topher Grace, Corey Hawkins, Ryan Eggold, Jasper Pääkkönen, Paul Walter Hauser, Michael Buscemi, Ashlie Atkinson, Robert John Burke, Ken Garito, Frederick Weller, Nicholas Turturro, Isiah Whitlock Jr. & Alec Baldwin

Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; Germany: 12; New Zealand: R; United Kingdom: 15; United States: R

Movie Review – Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

TL;DR – It really pains me to say that this film was a real disappointment with its story.

Score – 2.5 out of 5 stars

Post-Credit Scene – There is a post-credit scene but you do not have to stay for it

Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom. Image Credit: Universal/Legendary

Review

So well hmmm. Look when it comes to dinosaurs I am the easiest person to convince. I have loved them since I was a kid, the favourite book in my library is my first edition Dinotopia novel, and I have loved every one of the previous Jurassic Park films, yes even Jurassic Park III. However, as I walked out of the cinemas here I can’t help but think I just watched something that had an opportunity to do something different but decided to go the safest predictable route imaginable and just re-tread things from the last film, and overall just became a bit of a disappointment.

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Movie Review – Legend

TL;DR – Interesting but I doubt it will be remembered a month from now

Score – 3 out of 5 stars

Review

Well, it seems like this is the time for a gritty retelling of true stories of the criminal underground and while last week’s Black Mass (see review) was a boring mess this week’s Legend is a little bit more interesting. While one should endeavour to review films on their own merits, it’s a bit hard not to compare the two films due to their similar content, the manner of presentation and proximity of release.
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Movie Review – Ted 2

TL;DR – There are some interesting ideas here, but the sum of its parts don’t quite add up.

Score – 2 out of 5 stars

Review

Well this is a difficult film to review because there truly are a couple of really remarkable things that the movie does which really stand out, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t laugh, but ultimately I just left feeling that it’s just a bit meh.
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Movie Review – Jurassic World

TL;DR – Not as good as the original, but unlike the other squeals, it nails what a Jurassic Park squeal should be like, in tone, if not always in execution.

Score – 4 out of 5 stars

Review

Wow, it’s been a long time coming but we actually have a good sequel to the original Jurassic Park. The original Jurassic Park was a masterpiece and some of Spielberg’s best work, The Lost World was a movie with some really good parts (Raptors coming in the tall grass) but between these good parts was some real rubbish, and the less said about the plot hole inducing stupidity that is the tacked on final act the better, Jurassic Park III was a much better film than The Lost World but it rehashed a lot of the same ground. So given its rocky track record, I was wondering if this film would be any good, and while it is not as good as the first film (that could just be my rose-tinted glasses talking but probably not) it is a good film in its own right.
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Movie Review – Pitch Perfect 2

TL;DR – A great sequel to a great film, really enjoyable to watch, even if Rebel Wilson is starting to wear a bit thin.

Score – 4 out of 5 Stars

Review

This is how you do a comedy sequel correctly, you take everything that worked from the first movie, you then drop/retool the things that didn’t and then you up the stakes.
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