CIFF 2014 Reviews – Round 2: Appropriate Behavior, Afterlife, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her & Him, Starred Up

Alright, time for the second round of reviews for the 2014 Canberra International Film Festival. I know I said it’d be up on Wednesday, but I’m afraid I had a most insistent migraine that decided I didn’t really need to do anything but take a bunch of painkillers and go to bed that evening. Who am I to tell the migraine no? So painkillers and bed it was. Even better, I couldn’t open my right eye properly the following morning, went to the doctor and found out that I have an eye infection… in the middle of film festival season. Thankfully I got it checked out before it had time to take hold, and it’s not contagious or too serious, with no impairment to my vision, so I’m still able to ride, work and go see the films. So, soldiering on through it. Unfortunately I still had a lot on to work around the festival as well, so this got pushed back further than I’d have liked.

Before I get stuck in though, I wanted to talk about something real quick. I was thinking the other day about what it is I love about film festivals. Interestingly enough, the biggest thing for me isn’t the films (though obviously they’re a pretty damn important part of it), rather it’s the people I meet. End up sitting next to the right person, strike up a conversation, and you can find out some fascinating stuff. At last year’s Freaky Fridays I met a couple of guys that I’m now hanging out with from time to time, going to the movies with semi-regularly and even helped out with a Tropfest entry by playing a minor role (I got to be a messed up looking vampire, good times!). I met a woman who helped setup the festival years back, and still bump into her at the movies from time to time, leading to plenty of discussions about cinema and what we’ve been watching. Just the other night at the Afterlife screening, I met a guy who comes up from Melbourne for a few weeks every year for the film festival, and had a great chat with him about what we’d both seen so far, as well as talking about the film after it finished. Without something like the festival, odds are that I’d never encounter these people, and I feel like that’d be a real shame. I sometimes have trouble meeting new people, and to have something like this where it can be almost guaranteed that I’m going to share some interests with the people around me really helps boost my confidence to talk to those around me.

Anyway, let’s get started. I’ve got five films to review this time around, but two of them will be reviewed as one due to the way they’re meant to be watched… don’t give me that look, you’ll see what I mean when I get to them. Moving along…

As last time, there may be spoilers, I make no promises, you have been warned. If you want to avoid them entirely except for basic setup spoilers, read the summary of the review, which is shown above the poster for each film. Again, titles link to the CIFF page for each film, which will have a trailer if one is available.

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CIFF 2014 Reviews – Round 1: In Order of Disappearance, Why Don’t You Play In Hell?, The Salvation and The Congress

Hey hey! The 2014 Canberra International Film Festival started last Thursday, and I’ve been spending most of my free time since then watching movies. I’ve seen seven of the twenty-two (potentially twenty-three) on my schedule so far, and honestly I’ve loved them all. Unlike last year’s aborted attempt, this year I’m determined to review all of them. In the interests of making that manageable, I’ve set a couple of guidelines for myself. I’ll be reviewing them in batches of four films, and limiting myself to five hundred words per film, give or take a hundred words each. I’ll try to avoid major spoilers, but as always with my reviews, there’s no guarantees, so consider this your fair warning. If you want to be really safe, just read the summary I put at the start of each section. I’ll even put the poster for the movie after each summary so you know where to stop reading, so you know, never say I don’t do anything for you.

Now as I always say, I’m no serious film critic. I tend to go pretty easy on films so long as I find something to enjoy in them, and I make no apologies for that. So far this year I haven’t rated any of the films lower than a 4, and I think last year I only rated one of them as a 1 or 2.

Now that the preamble is out-of-the-way, let’s get this show on the road. For Round 1, I’ll be talking about In Order of Disappearance, Why Don’t You Play In Hell, The Salvation and The Congress. Each title is linked to the page for the film on the CIFF website, if a trailer is available for it, you can find it there.

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Initial Thoughts: Guardians of the Galaxy.

So I saw Guardians of the Galaxy on the weekend… I want to review it. But I don’t know if I can. I honestly can’t think of the words to describe it properly. Everything about it just made me so happy. Once I’ve had a chance to let it all sink in, and maybe seen the movie again (maybe even a few times), I might try to do a proper review. But for now,  I thought I’d throw out some initial thoughts about it. Seriously though, just go watch it. I don’t care if you thought the Guardians didn’t deserve their own film, or how silly you think the concept is, this movie is amazing. This is pretty much entirely spoiler free, except for one major one right at the end of the post (there’s another warning and an image there just to make sure you don’t accidentally see it while reading).

Before we get stuck in though, just a quick note about upcoming stuff. I’ve got five updates for The Unusual Suspects in the works, but it’s going to take a while. Been struggling to get the descriptions written, and these aren’t my characters, so I’m waiting on some details for some of them. Still, hopefully I’ll have the first one up within the next week. Moving on…

Man, even just seeing that poster makes me so happy.

Man, even just seeing that poster makes me so happy.

Casting: Only going to talk about the main characters here.  Chris Pratt was adorably silly and loveable but had his moments of seriousness; Zoe Saldana was wonderful as Gamora (and on a side note, it was nice to see they didn’t shoehorn in a nude scene for no reason); Dave Bautista played Drax as a great mix of melancholy and unintentionally comical; and Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket was something else entirely. I mean, the depth he managed to bring to that character, showing that he’s more than just a talking racoon who happens to be a nutjob with a fixation on big guns. Then there’s Groot. I don’t care that pretty much all he says is “I am Groot”, with varying inflections depending on the context, Vin Diesel completely nailed it, and with the few words he was given to work with managed to hit me right in the feels (probably unsurprising to those who remember his role as the Iron Giant around fifteen years ago). Lee Pace was surprisingly dark in his role as Ronan the Accuser for the overall tone of the movie, but it worked really well. Karen Gillan… well, I’m more used to seeing her as Amy Pond, the adorable red-headed companion of Matt Smith’s incarnation of Doctor Who, but damn if she wasn’t fantastic as Nebula, the cyborg killing machine. Also very blue, and very bald. Yet still sexy somehow… is that weird? I guess it’s a little weird. But whatever.

Story: Easiest way to explain my thoughts on this is to use the Avengers film as a comparison. Avengers was very much a serious movie with moments of comedy, and the characters are heroes from the start. Guardians of the Galaxy on the other hand is a straight up comedy with moments of surprising emotional depth and seriousness. It throws you a bunch of criminals who, while very likable, aren’t exactly all about Truth, Justice and the American Way, then shows their gradual transition into Big Damn Heroes or, at the very least, Big Damn Anti-Heroes. It’s violent, it’s funny, it’s clever, and it’s extremely well told.

Visuals: It’s gorgeous. Everything about it is just beautiful to look at, even the occasional horrible stuff. I can’t really say much more. Total feast for the eyes sums it up nicely I guess.

Conclusion: Without a doubt, this is my favourite film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far, and I’m unbelievably happy that they’ve already confirmed a sequel. Oh all the other films have been great (I’m ignoring even Edward Norton’s Hulk here, I’ll admit there’s an MCU Hulk film when they give us one with Mark Ruffalo in it), but they’ve all been fairly serious stories with characters who are, as I said before, undoubtedly heroes (okay, Tony Stark may be a jerk sometimes, but he’s still an unequivocally good guy). It was refreshing to have a bunch of anti-heroes just bantering with each other as they bumbled around trying to figure out what to do. I have to admit, I’m glad I sprung for the premium tickets. It was great being able to lie back in a recliner, have people bring me wine and cocktails and food throughout the film, and just lose myself in the spectacle. I laughed, I rooted for the good(ish) guys, I gripped the edge of my seat where appropriate… and I cried. That’s right. I cried. I’m not ashamed to admit it, and anyone who’s seen the movie can probably take a pretty bloody good guess at where I lost it. I bloody well defy anyone to see that movie, get to that scene, and not feel at least a tear welling up!


They may be criminals, but I love them anyway...

They may be criminals, but I love them anyway…

For anyone who can’t work it out, or doesn’t mind spoilers, the scene that made me cry is pretty late in the film. The ship that the team is in is going to crash, and in order to save them, Groot turns himself into a cage to protect them… when Rocket realises what’s happening, he pleads with Groot to not do it. I may have the lines a little wrong here, as I was a bit tipsy by this stage, but it goes something like this…

Rocket: Groot, no… you’ll die! Why are you doing this…
Groot: We… are… Groot

Holy shit guys, that scene just sucker-punched me right in the feels. I mean Groot hasn’t said anything beyond his trademark “I am Groot” the whole way through the film, and he so clearly wanted to say “We are friends” to Rocket, but couldn’t get that last word out. Even thinking about it now, I’m feeling like I’m going to tear up.



Written while listening to A Sound Mind. They’re an Australian band who unfortunately only ever released one album, Harmonia. I was lucky enough to see them when they were in Canberra one time, they were selling their album on the street after I’d finished my training course and was catching up with some friends… some random guy comes up, asks if I like music, then shoved some headphones at me. Had a listen, bought the album, and they threw in tickets to the gig that night. They’re a mix of rock, synth and pop, with some really uplifting lyrics. It’s not all non-stop happy joy, but the general theme is less “Life sucks” and more “Life may not be great right now, but hold yourself up and things will change for the better”.  I did just find out that it looks like the band members have split off and created two separate bands, PLUDO and Capio, so I’ll be tracking down some of their stuff for a listen very soon.

Kaiju, Mutants and Robots Oh My! – Godzilla & X-Men: Days of Future Past Reviews

I’m going to make this one quick. The last couple of days have been a drain, but I wanted to at least get a quick review of these movies done. I’m going to do them both in the one post, and they’re going to be short reviews compared to the essays that I normally write. That way I can devote time to some other updates I’ve got in the works without feeling like I’ve got something else I have to do first.

Fair warning, same as whenever I review stuff, there could be some spoilers in here. I’ll try to avoid anything major.

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CIFF Reviews Round One: My Sweet Pepper Land, Ginger & Rosa, Mirage Men

Well, we’re long past due for the first batch of reviews for the films I saw at the Canberra International Film Festival. Unfortunately I’ve been ill again, and had some personal stuff going on that had essentially killed my motivation to work on anything that required more effort than sitting down on the couch and watching TV or reading a book. Well we’re past that now (not the being sick, I’ve once again got the flu and am also due for a minor medical procedure in a week or so… yay me!), so I’m back into writing. I’ve decided I’m going to do the reviews in order of viewing, so the first ones up are My Sweet Pepper LandGinger & Rosa, and Mirage Men. I’m aiming to get these smashed out of the way as quickly as I can, after which I may not post again until I get home from visiting the family at Christmas. All depends on how long it takes I suppose.

Just a reminder, when I do film reviews, I don’t tend to focus on the technical elements and quality of the cinematography (unless it’s a film that is being sold on those elements). I focus on how I felt about it, and the enjoyment I get out of it. I’m not a professional critic, and I’m giving an unabashedly biased review based entirely on my opinion.

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So many films, so little time…

So, I’ve obviously been absent again for a while. As you might recall, my last post was related to the 17th Canberra International Film Festival, and I mentioned that I was seeing 18 or 19 films throughout it. I had planned to be posting my thoughts on each film as I saw them, and doing more in depth discussions on the ones I enjoyed the most, but it turns out that seeing that many films takes a huge amount of your time. Add that to the fact that I spent the weekend showing a colleague from Washington, D.C. around the city, and I’ve had practically no time to myself for the last week and a bit.

At this stage, I’m 13 films into my 19, and the last one will be showing on the 13th, so next Wednesday. While it’s been an enjoyable experience so far, I must admit that it can be hard to take in that much and process it all when I’m often walking out of one cinema and straight into another. Now that I have a little more space between films though, I’ll be starting to work through my thoughts on each one and posting about them. The next few weeks should see me posting some brief commentary on each film, followed by proper reviews of several of them. I do have a double feature tomorrow night, and another on Saturday, but if I can I’ll try to get something done on Saturday morning. Otherwise it will be Sunday. This means there won’t be any real gaming being posted about during this time, unless I can convince Jim to do some more guest posts or get another one of the players from my Pathfinder games to write something, so I hope you’ll bear with me while I get this out of the way.

To give an idea of what I’ve thought of the films so far though, I’ve listed them below along with what rating I gave each one in the festival voting.

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Cancelling the Apocalypse! – Pacific Rim Review

So. I saw Pacific Rim yesterday, and felt the need to write something about it. Obviously I’m not a professional critic, so I guess this might be a little rough, but honestly some of the reviews I’ve been seeing from the professional critics have annoyed me. I don’t care if they don’t like the movie, that’s their right, but some of them are showing that they’ve clearly got no idea what the movie was trying to accomplish. Saying that it owes its existence to Michael Bay’s Transformers is a bloody joke, especially given the fact that the movie is clearly intended as a way to introduce a new generation to the concept of Kaiju and giant robot films. There were a number of other inaccuracies, but I can’t really be bothered with them now beyond pointing out that things like this are why I rarely bother with reviews by professional critics before seeing a movie. I normally find reviews by average viewers to be of much more use, since I’m more likely to be judging a movie on similar criteria to them.

Hence why I’ve decided to review this in the hopes that it helps some people decide whether or not to watch it. First though, let’s make something clear. This is a movie review, so this could quite conceivably be considered to be spoilerific. You have been warned, and you read on at your own risk. That said, I have done my absolute best to avoid things I would consider to be spoilers. Pretty much all of the plot info in here is stuff you’d get from watching the trailer. Now then, let’s get into it…

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