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  • United 93

    United 93

    ★★★★★

    Ruthlessly economical filmmaking that so effectively illustrates just how unexpected and unfathomable the events of 9/11 were for the passengers and ground crews involved.

    Once past the opening hotel room and boarding gate scenes, the film never strays beyond the walls of the hijacked aircraft or the military and civilian command centres that responded. Director Greengrass provides no explanation — other than perhaps nerves — for the hijackers’ delayed gambit on board, and deliberately downplays most of the day’s iconic…

  • Steve Jobs

    Steve Jobs

    ★★★★½

    Perhaps this might have benefitted from the approach taken by films like Elephant in never directly linking its leads to their real-life counterparts, but the material covered is too specific to have made it a pure allegory. Yes, it’s contrived and rearranged and heavily dramatised, but its artistic choices are generally strong (including format shifts from grainy 16mm to 35mm to digital between each of its three backstage acts), and despite little-to-no physical resemblance, Michael Fassbender plays to an outsider’s…

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  • The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

    The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

    ★½

    “In December 2017, it was announced Joe Johnston would direct a month of reshoots written by Tom McCarthy, with Hallström agreeing to Johnston receiving co-directing credit.” I didn’t read this till afterwards, but it’s no surprise at all. While the visual effects and production design are right up there, the rest of this endeavour is so earnest as to be completely devoid of substance and personality. Ten minutes later my kids were back to discussing Alita from two weeks prior.

  • Mortal Engines

    Mortal Engines

    ★★½

    This reportedly lost the studio $150 million, which is entirely attributable to the producers not appending A Star Wars Story to the end of its title. It’s not great, in the same way recent secondary tales from the SWU haven’t been great; a potentially interesting world full of good and evil and ships that fly and shoot, but which inevitably falls back on clichéd story points and character arcs. Most of the effects work is pretty good (i.e. not immediately…

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  • Drive

    Drive

    ★★★★★

    The tech writer John Gruber is fond of a Kubrick quote about the truth of a thing being in the feel of it rather than the think of it, a phrase that for me perfectly explains the appeal of Nicolas Winding Refn’s noirish adaptation of the James Sallis novel. Right from the first hotel room scene, through a near wordless 15-minute opening stanza, the foreboding atmosphere of an after-hours, back-streets Los Angeles takes hold. The ambient, minimal score by Cliff…

  • Les Misérables

    Les Misérables

    ★★★

    Golden boy director, hot off earnest 2011 Oscar winner The King’s Speech, cashes in open-slather offer for next project by committing to film universally adored hit musical about love at first sight and the redemptive power of student uprisings.

    Loses drunken bet over which member of the Master and Commander cast will play the pivotal role of Javert, and is forced to cast vocally-challenged Aussie rocker, only to have him murder ‘Stars’ and be thoroughly upstaged by pint-sized unknown Daniel…