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Midway

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A big-name Hollywood director, best known for special effects-driven action spectacle, decides to try something a bit more prestige and make a war drama set around the attack on Pearl Harbour. No, you have not suddenly teleported back to 2001, and we’re not talking about Michael Bay (not yet, at any rate). Instead, we’re looking at the latest from the leading name in turn-off-brain disaster cinema Roland Emmerich, and in so many ways, it shows him doing what he does best.

All your favourite tried-and-true clichés from the man’s extensive filmography are here. You’ve got the insider perspective, who saw the disaster coming but no one listened to, with Patrick Wilson’s Lt. Com. Layton; you’ve got the hot-shot fighter pilot a la Will Smith in Independence Day with Ed Skrein as Lt. Best; you’ve got numerous military officials to inject America Fuck Yeah into the proceedings; and you’ve got plenty of eye candy action to give that artificial sense of popcorn entertainment.

Of course, the very setting seems to work against Emmerich’s strengths. He tends to focus a lot more on gargantuan, world-shaking events, showing entire cities getting taken down one after another. Doing so allows the frame to be deliriously overloaded with movement, so that the effects work does its job without being entirely noticeable on its own. With this, that same level of rendering fidelity doesn’t hold up nearly as well, from the glaringly-obvious green-screening to the last-gen-quality computer graphics to create the battle sequences.

There’s also the writing to consider, coming from Wes Tooke in his first feature-length outing. His television experience is a little too clear with how episodic and almost-incidental the pacing is, following Emmerich’s habit of having conversation as merely the sinew that connects the louder moments together.

Said conversation itself also ends up sabotaging anything resembling mood within the story, as the dialogue keeps pushing for quick laughs so incessantly that you start questioning what the tone is even supposed to be. Aaron Eckhart’s declaration of “I’m American; I bombed Japan yesterday” embodies the film’s sheer lack of irony.

And yet, Emmerich and co. seem to be at least trying for something a bit more serious here. His treatment of the American and Japanese forces involved in the warfare is remarkably balanced and aims for populist fervour, and it’s certainly less jingoistic than it could’ve been.

However, even ignoring his usual mishandling of anything to do with history (Anonymous, Stonewall, etc.), his bombastic and wannabe-crowd-pleasing treatment of one of the most crucial moments in American war history ultimately ends up trivialising it, shooting his own best intentions squarely in the foot. Some credit for stepping out of his conspiracy-laden comfort zone, but old habits clearly die hard, and in the crossfire of intent and presentation, the entertainment value crashes and burns before too long.

 
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The Gentlemen

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Guy Ritchie’s cinematic output has, to put it politely, varied in quality over the years. After the grimy, crimey one-two punch of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) and Snatch (2000), Guy seemed to go off the boil. And look, Revolver (2005) and RocknRolla (2008) both have their charms, but it’s hard to imagine anyone vociferously defending the likes of Swept Away (2002) or King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017). So, it looked like Guy would probably go on crafting decent-but-unchallenging flicks like Sherlock Holmes (2009), Aladdin (2019) and the bizarrely overlooked, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015). And then the flash geezer only goes and releases The Gentlemen, which is far and away his best film in years!

The Gentlemen, like Ritchie’s best films Lock, Stock and Snatch, is a wild and woolly crime caper, showcasing multiple distinct characters and points of view. This time around our main players are American expat weed dealer extraordinaire, Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey), his debonair but tough second in command, Raymond (Charlie Hunnam), slimy muckraker, Fletcher (Hugh Grant) and bad arse Irish mentor to troubled boys, Coach (Colin Farrell). The story is revealed through multiple sweary, unreliable narrators and twists and turns with Ritchie’s much-missed cheerful alacrity. And though the story perhaps doesn’t quite know when to quit, the sheer charm of the performances will almost certainly carry all but the most cheerless audience members through.

Matthew McConaughey brings a slick, polished energy to the proceedings, Charlie Hunnam proves that, given the right material he’s actually a really solid actor with great comic timing and Hugh Grant beautifully plays against type, offering a level of malevolent sleaziness that is at times jaw droppingly foul and profoundly entertaining. The supporting actors are uniformly superb as well, with Michelle Dockery bringing a cocky dominatrix vibe to Rosalind, Mickey’s wife, and Henry Golding does tooth-gnashing menace with panache as ‘orrible nemesis Dry Eye.

Ritchie is clearly in his element here, and has a hoot unleashing his best crime caper since Snatch. The characters are grand, the setting is vivid, the action is meaty and the dialogue will probably cause a lot of people to unleash earnest think pieces that contain four or five hundred uses of the word “problematic”. It certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but for those who missed the old Guy Ritchie and his verbose, iconic gangsters, The Gentlemen will go down better than a pint and a pickled egg.

 
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Trailer: Awoken

"A young medical student attempts to cure her brother from a terminal sleep illness called Fatal Familial Insomnia, where you are unable to sleep until you die. On her quest to help him, a more sinister reason for his condition is revealed." South Australian made chiller from director Daniel J. Phillips, starring two of our fave local performers, Erik Thomson and Sara West.
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Resident Evil 3

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It’s funny how history repeats itself over and over. Case in point, Capcom’s one-two punch of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis in 1998 and 1999 respectively. Resident Evil 2 was an undisputed masterpiece, an evolution of the survival horror formula and a game that remains a beloved classic to this day. Resident Evil 3, on the other hand, was a fun but slight affair that was shorter, simpler and just not quite as involving as its predecessor. Cut to 2020 and we have the Resident Evil 3 remake hitting stores this week and the result? Well, it’s all just a bit of history repeating…

Resident Evil 3 puts the player in the shapely shoes of Jill Valentine, who has the misfortune of being in Racoon City around the same time as the events of Resident Evil 2 are taking place. It soon becomes clear, however, that Jill’s problems are a little different, as a S.T.A.R.S-hunting beastie named Nemesis is about and wants nothing more than to kill Jill. The opening hours of RE3 are superb. Scary, atmospheric and genuinely thrilling. The devastated streets of Racoon City are an engaging backdrop, and you feel like you’re genuinely inhabiting the early hours of a zombie apocalypse. Nemesis too is initially a thrilling foe, seemingly invincible and utterly devoted to ripping your guts out.

The problem is, as the game wears on, the thrills begin to dwindle. What commences in wide open areas, eventually becomes samey corridors, and while the slightly more action-focused combat is gripping while it’s occurring, the game around it just doesn’t have the same level of care as last year’s excellent Resident Evil 2 remake. Nemesis too, becomes just a repeated boss, not stalking you like the Tyrant aka Mr. X did in the previous entry and the five hour playtime, with no second character playthrough, really doesn’t do much to dispel the sense that this is a lesser product. RE3 comes bundled with Resident Evil: Resistance, which is an engaging-for-a-while 4v1 multiplayer proposition, but can’t disguise the fact that the campaign, which is the title’s selling point, isn’t quite up to snuff.

Ultimately, Resident Evil 3 repeats the slight letdown that it proved in 1999. However, this time around, it’s a little less forgivable, particularly after the stunning Resident Evil 2 remake. Die hard horror fans will certainly find something to love in this slight but splattery offering, and the first third is brilliant, but sadly the game’s real nemesis is a lack of innovation.

 
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Exclusive Clip: Burning Kiss: The Future is Bright

Robbie Studsor's long-awaited Australian 'acid noir' thriller was scheduled for a limited cinema release, which was cancelled due to the closure of cinemas. But it's finally available to the public and this clip's proclaimation couldn't be more timely!
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The Alex Gibney Audit

The prolific documentarian had 3 films screening at the 2015 Sydney Film Festival, including the highly controversial, Going Clear: The Prison of Belief.