Film Review: Passengers (2016)

It is the future. Jim Preston (Chris Pratt), a passenger on the spaceship Avalon, wakes up from his sleep pod. The ship is on a 120 year journey to a colonisation planet called Homestead 2. The Avalon is a state-of-the-art sleep ship with 5000 passengers in a state of suspended animation. Jim’s pod has malfunctioned and he has woken 90 years early. The pod is constructed to keep Jim asleep, but not to put him back under if he wakes up. As the ship’s computer explains to him, it is impossible for a sleep pod to malfunction. There are no protocols for this eventuality. All the ship’s technicians are also in a hyper-sleep state and locked away in high security quarters. Everyone but Jim and a robot bartender (Michael Sheen) is asleep for the next 90 years. He is stranded in what amounts to a resort hotel in space. He has food, a pool, exercise equipment, entertainment; everything except human companionship.

PASSENGERS has a great premise. Does Jim just die alone on a ship with 5000 souls who are untouchable and unreachable as far as he is concerned? They have all paid their money to become a colonist 90 years in the future. They are as good as dead to Jim, as he is to them.

Eventually, Jim is joined by another passenger, Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) And here, you might find the story engaging and be all-in with the growing relationship of these two attractive space colonists of the future or you might not be happy with the way the story turns. If you saw the trailer to PASSENGERS and thought of it as a romance and a sci-fi adventure, then it isn’t that straight forward.

PASSENGERS is shot on great sets and has seamless special effects. Pratt and Lawrence are solid. The screenplay by Jon Spaihts needed more development because the story sets up a moral dilemma and then never sufficiently deals with it. For viewers not concerned with this aspect of storytelling, PASSENGERS is a slickly made movie with A-list stars, preposterous action and an overly sentimental conclusion.

USA | 116 minutes (2.5/5)

This review originally appeared on AccessReel.com

Film Review: Why Him? (2016)

Ned and Barb Fleming, and their 15-year-old-son Scott visit their eldest child, 22-year-old Stephanie in California, where she goes to college. The family live in Grand Rapids, Michigan where Ned runs a printing business. The Flemings expect to spend some family time with their daughter for Christmas, but from the moment they land, plans change. Stephanie introduces them to her new boyfriend Laird. He is immature, swears continuously and is a Silicon Valley multi-millionaire. Laird insists the Flemings stay in his hi-tech mansion and immediately he puts Ned off-side.

Father and daughter usually have a close relationship, but the more Ned discovers about Laird, the more he feels his relationship with Stephanie has changed for the worst. Laird is on a mission to win over the family, especially Ned.

WHY HIM? is a comedy directed by John Hamburg and co-written by him and Ian Helfer. The basic premise is familiar enough: over-protective father can’t accept his adult daughter making her own decisions.

Hamburg and Helfer make the new boyfriend superficially attractive and rich, but then make him a middle-class parents’ nightmare. He has no filter for normal conversation, so does not observe any of the niceties of day-to-day politeness. This is explained with the half-baked idea that Laird had no substantial parental figures. So most of the things that Laird says are about sex and everything he utters contains profanities. This is the movie’s go-to gag. A barrage of awkward sex talk in front of Stephanie’s parents and a never-ending stream of swearing. I found this immensely tiresome. Laird is played by James Franco and the movie relies entirely on his charm and his skill at playing a guileless man-child. The audience I saw this with seemed on board however, they laughed steadily throughout, but I was only intermittently amused.

The other comic idea was actually a two-for-one. #1:Those Wacky Californians and Their Zany Cutting Edge Ideas (Gourmet food as a gas! Paperless house!). This fits neatly into #2:Those Zany Millennials and Their Wacky Cutting Edge Ideas. Here the film shows more invention coming up with the kind of daft hipster concepts that might appeal to a young tech millionaire (Defensive parkour!). This kind of thing is as a modern as the 1962 Jimmy Stewart movie MR HOBBS TAKES A VACATION (Beatniks!). Most off the weird innovations in the house (Computerised Japanese toilet!) are under the care of Laird’s Estate Manager Gustav played by the reliably energetic Keegan-Michael Key.

Other performers include Cedric the Entertainer, the disembodied voice of Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco, Griffin Gluck as Scott Fleming and Zoey Deutch as Stephanie. Bryan Cranston and Megan Mullally play Mom and Dad Fleming and they are great at coming up with comic double-takes and stilted reactions to the weirdness unfolding around them, but I still felt a little cheated that they weren’t really given the opportunity to let rip. Both have shown us what they can do comedically on television, Cranston as Hal in Malcolm in the Middle and Mullally as Karen in Will and Grace, so it seemed an opportunity was going begging.

WHY HIM? is an adequate comedy that will suit undemanding audiences wanting to have some laughs over the holidays. It gets as far as it does on the talents of Franco, Cranston and Mullally.

USA | 116 minutes (5/10)

This review originally appeared on AccessReel.com

Film Review: Justice League (2017)

JUSTICE LEAGUE is the fifth movie of the D.C. Extended Universe (DCEU). It is preceded and informed by MAN OF STEEL (2013), BATMAN V SUPERMAN (2016), SUICIDE SQUAD (2016) and WONDER WOMAN (2017). The story begins in a world that is still coming to terms with the death of Superman. Massive black flags fly in tribute to the lost son of Krypton. There is a sense that Earth is now unguarded against alien threat and it has become a grief-stricken, doom-laden planet without hope. As a counter to the fear and as a defence against potential extraterrestrial dangers, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) and Diana Prince /Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) work to bring together a team of heroes—a Justice League.

Top draft picks for the League are: the oceanic Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa); young and speedy Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller) and former college football star, with a newly acquired and still evolving cybernetic body, Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher). Batman and Wonder Woman have some initial difficulties in locating these three and getting them to answer the call for the heroes’ journey but Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg eventually cross the threshold and the Justice League is formed.

The timing is fortunate because it turns out that an ancient and all-powerful foe Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) has returned to dominate and enslave the planet with his multitude of deadly, winged minions, the Parademons. Steppenwolf is on a quest to bring together three mysterious cubes known as the Mother Boxes; when joined they become the Unity which Steppenwolf will use to conquer Earth.
From here, the good guys have a number of obstacles to overcome in their mission to defeat Steppenwolf’s plan. The movie does a good job tying-up a major strand in the DCEU story. However, the good versus evil part of the tale is strictly by-the-numbers for the modern superhero movie. Steppenwolf, in his desire to conquer, is very similar to Apocalypse in X-MEN: APOCALYPSE, or Dark Elf Malekith in THOR: THE DARK WORLD, or many of other the power-hungry super-villains. In their original conception on the comic page, all these antagonists doubtless have stories of specific detail, but on screen, most of the bad guys seem similar.

The new League members are not shown in great depth, but Fisher, Miller and Momoa bring sufficient presence to make a solid impact in their roles. Seeing the five characters connect as a team, provides the movie with a number of highlights. Time is given to family moments with Cyborg’s father Silas (Joe Morton) and The Flash ‘s father Henry (Billy Crudup). Diana’s mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) makes a welcome return. There are blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearances from Amber Heard as Mera, J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon and Robin Wright as Antiope. The excellent Jeremy Irons is back as Alfred and is underused, but then this movie is packed tight with characters.

The physical action set pieces are good enough, but there is an over-reliance on visual effects. The computer-generated images are numerous and unremarkable. Sometimes the frame is busy and the visuals are confusing. A number of exteriors have the feel of being green-screened sound-stages.

Overall, JUSTICE LEAGUE is entertaining. The main story is average in its execution, but the new team have a number of amusing and heartfelt moments. This isn’t the blockbuster some were hoping for. WONDER WOMAN is a better movie, but JUSTICE LEAGUE is at least more coherent than the remaining three films of the current DCEU.

USA | 120 minutes (6.5/10)

This review first appeared at AccessReel.com

Film Review: Bad Moms 2 (2017)

BAD MOMS was a smash hit comedy of 2016. It cost US $20 million to make and took an impressive US $183 million at the box office. With numbers like those, a follow-up was always on the cards, however the fact the original debuted in July 2016 and the sequel was released at the end of October 2017, suggests a swiftly made production. On a first watch, it appears the screenplay was the area that could have done with some more time and attention. (The movie is known as BAD MOMS 2 in Australia and A BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS in others.)

The set up is the contrived idea that unexpectedly, the Bad Moms are visited by their own moms this Christmas, 2017. Apparently none of the moms were expecting a “visit from grandma”. This is supposed to indicate the essential dysfunction between the Bad Moms and their moms. The believability of the mother-daughter match-up is good with Carla (Kathryn Hahn) and Isis (Susan Sarandon) and even more so with Kiki (Kristen Bell) and Sandy (Cheryl Hines). The idea of Mila Kunis being the offspring of Ruth (Christine Baranski) and Hank (Peter Gallagher) requires some suspension of disbelief.

The centre of the story is that the Bad Moms feel overloaded by the responsibility to organise, shop, buy, cook and gift-wrap the perfect Christmas. Then mix in the difficulties of their mother-daughter relationships and stand back for the laughs. Christine Baranski’s Ruth is a perfectionist. Cheryl Hines’ character wants to be too close to her daughter. The Sarandon character seems barely to be in the life of Carla and her son. All three of these family set-ups is tested and the results are some pretty funny scenes, some averagely amusing ones and some acceptably heart-felt hits of emotion.

The original BAD MOMS was a tight-piece of work from co-writers and co-directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. It was a crude, smart and consistently hilarious movie with top comedic talent in unexpectedly funny situations. There are some mis-steps in the sequel leading to some flat moments. Even within the over-the-top world created by Moore and Lucas, some of their story decisions are poor on this outing. The Amy and Ruth Christmas struggle, which is given the most screen time, is not that believable. What sells it is Kunis and Baranski’s acting talents. They are funny and eventually touching in their connection and you care about what happens to these two. More often than not, the performance skills of this very talented cast is what makes this watchable even when what is happening is not on-point. Having said this, all the scenes with Carla and her potential stripper boyfriend Ty Swindle (Justin Hartley) are great.

So if you’re a fan of the first movie, prepare for the Yuletide onslaught of the Bad Moms and their own learning-to-be-better moms. It’s a level down from the last offering, but if you know that and you knock back a little Christmas egg-nog first, then chances are you’ll (yule) be entertained.

USA | 104 minutes (6/10)

This review originally appeared in AccessReel.com

Film Review: Three Summers (2017)

Three Summers_02

The Westival is an annual music festival that attracts great players and enthusiastic folk-loving audiences to a small town in Western Australia. The story begins when Keevey (Rebecca Breeds), a Western Australian fiddler and singer in her father’s Irish band, crosses paths with Roland (Robert Sheehan) an actual Irishman with no interest whatsoever in the folk music of his homeland. He instructs extremely small audiences on that classic electronic instrument, the theremin. Both Keevey and Roland find the other a rather trying person, but in the way of the movies, each also sees something attractive in the other person. And so, begins their comedic and problematic romance, stretching over three Summers.

The film returns to the Westival in all three Summers and so we see how some people have changed and others have remained exactly-the-same. The head of the Aboriginal Dance troupe played by Kelton Pell and the leader of the Morris Dancers, played by Michael Caton don’t see eye-to-eye and have regular run-ins. There is also a quartet of empty-nesters who do the Westival annually; an-all woman rock band called Feminasty; even a group of asylum seekers with a song about their lives and current situation. On stage and in the audience, there are people with stories to tell and live through. Overseeing all of this is radio host Queenie (Magda Szubanski). She is passionate about music and the festival and does her best to publicise all aspects of the event, even when it means broadcasting arguments between rival musicians.

Writer director Ben Elton is well-known as an English stand-up comedian who came to prominence in the 1980s with his energetic act, laced with political content. He also co-wrote BLACKADDER and THE YOUNG ONES, two of the funniest British sitcoms of the era which were highly influential on all the TV comedy that followed. He has since gone on to write plays, musical plays, more television and novels. He is much awarded and quite the cultural icon. His connection to the wide brown land is through marriage. He has managed to live in Australia and raise a family here and to maintain his UK profile and career. Which is how this famous English talent comes to make a feature film in Australia that has characters, actors, themes and a soundtrack reflecting our island home.

Breeds and Sheehan are lovely to watch as the romantic leads. Magda Szubanski is a necessary binding force to a disparate and diverse cast; Pell and Caton have fun in their sparring roles; John Waters is always excellent at seeming like a man with an agenda beyond the friendly exterior he projects. There is an extensive list of players who have quick hits of scenes and amusing moments woven into the fabric of the Westival; fans of Deborah Mailman, Peter Rowsthorn, Christiaan Van Vuuren and Nick Boshier should keep an eye out for their appearances.

THREE SUMMERS is a film about people and situations that Western Australians will recognise immediately. Other audiences, not from the here, will still have the music, comedy, performances and romance to enjoy.

Australia | 102 minutes (6/10)

This review first appeared at AccessReel.com

Film Review: Breathe (2017)

Claire Foy and Andrew Garfield as Diana and Robin Cavendish

Robin is married to Diana. The Cavendishes are English and live in Kenya. It is 1958 and his business is coffee. The couple live a good life and have made solid friendships. Then tragedy strikes and Robin (Andrew Garfield) contracts a severe, debilitating disease. He is 28. Diana (Claire Foy) is 25. He lives, but his condition is so devastating that he sinks into depression. Diana wonders how their life together is going to work, especially as she is expecting their first child.

BREATHE takes the story of a life-changing disease and documents how it affected an English family for the next three decades. In these years, the 1960s to the 1990s, the world changed greatly in its medical thinking. Robin’s initial disease left him severely physically disabled and as the movie shows, for others with his condition, this meant a life of virtual imprisonment in hospitals, hooked-up to machines. This thinking was dominant in the medical profession, led by a desire to be efficient in the treatment of these patients, however for many, like Robin, this meant an existence that was utterly devoid of the things that make life worth living.

Diana is determined to be Robin’s carer. She works hard to create the circumstances that will improve his days and they have the support of a network of friends. The challenges are daunting, but every hurdle successfully cleared means that others can benefit from the knowledge and experience the Cavendishes gain.

BREATHE is a drama and a romance. At times, it has rather chocolate-boxy visuals but the reality of a broken human body is not completely glossed over. The relationship of Diana and Robin is shown as supportive and happy in the main, but also as ordinary and chafing at other times. Once again, reality is not completely glossed over. Diana and Robin are amazing people, but in the end remain recognizable as suffering and struggling human beings.

Andy Serkis, the actor you know from his motion-captured triumphs (Caesar in the Planet of the Apesmovies and Gollum in The Lord of the Rings movies) has done an excellent job in his directorial debut. Actors who direct almost always know how to get the best from their fellow thesps and here Garfield and Foy create an engaging and believable Robin and Diana.

Some of the timeline and actual medical history presented seems quite loose, but the inspiration is what BREATHE is built for, rather than a documentary-style tale. I didn’t necessarily accept all the events as wholly accurate, however I was entertained and ultimately moved by the portrayal of these lives.

UK |  118 minutes (8/10)

This review originally appeared in AccessReel.com

 

Film Review: Argo (2012)

The Iranian Hostage Crisis dominated news in the western world in 1979. The militants who occupied the US Embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans hostage committed an act that was particularly newsworthy because it was unprecedented. The concept of embassies works only because everyone agrees to treat them as off-limits in a conflict.

The students and activists who took over the US Embassy in the name of the Iranian revolution were angry at the US for supporting the rule of the former leader of Iran, the Shah. The Shah was in the United States for medical reasons and Iran wanted him back to stand trial. The crisis continued for 444 days. There was a botched attempt at a military rescue and in the end the matter was settled through diplomatic negotiation. Six members of the US Embassy staff escaped capture and hid in the home of the Canadian Ambassador. Eventually, an unusual plan was devised to get them out of Iran. It was decided that Tony Mendez, a CIA operative, would enter the country posing as a Hollywood movie producer scouting locations for a (fictitious) science fantasy film called “Argo”. Later he was to exit the country through the airport with the six embassy staff posing as members of the movie’s crew.

This true story was declassified from CIA files in the late 1990s and is well-known among espionage and political geeks. Actor-director Ben Affleck has used these facts as the basis of his third outing as a feature film director. Another famous hyphenate, actor-director George Clooney, produced ARGO and Affleck’s film shares the kind of solidity and non-flashiness of the movies that Clooney has developed.

A lot of care has been lavished on period details. The sense that hair, wardrobe and props are spot-on is reinforced by the clever side-by-side shot comparisons that run through the end credits. We are allowed to see pictures of the actual participants alongside pictures of the actors who play them. The storming of the US Embassy gates is compared with the recreated footage. The filmmakers are obviously and justly proud of the work that has gone into this.

There are some who have criticised Affleck and writer Chris Terrios’ interpretation of the events of the hostage crisis. There are plenty of moments that one can describe as “Hollywoodised” if one wants to play the part of Captain Suckfun. Suffice to say, history buffs will not be best pleased by the dramatisation of the final moments in the airport. The last quarter of the film, which covers the journey through the airport in Tehran, is very tense indeed. At the screening I attended, the people I spoke with, all agreed that knuckles were whitened and stomachs churned by the dramatic intensity of this end section.The audience is gripped by the fear that somehow airport customs, or the Iranian Revolutionary Guards will see through the ruse of the phoney movie crew.

The movie is all plot with almost no charcaterisation to speak of. This would be a negative for many films, but here it barely matters. It isn’t necessary for us to have a deeper understanding of the participants. Having said this, I think Affleck erred in casting himself as CIA man Mendez. His performance is under done and I would lay the blame on self-direction.

ARGO begins with an elegant summation of the events that lead to the crisis and proceeds to engage the audience for the next two hours. This is well-made, middlebrow entertainment for adults who want a little more than gunplay and explosions on a Saturday night.

USA | 120 minutes | (3/5)

This review was originally published in Accessreel.com

TV Review: Narcos Season 3

NARCOS returns to Netflix on September 1st. Season 3 of this ground-breaking series is new territory in more ways than one. Seasons 1 and 2 covered the rise and fall of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. The demise of Escobar and the Medellin drug cartel means its chief competitor, the Cali cartel, is now the leading manufacturer and importer of cocaine in the world. They become responsible for 90% of the cocaine entering the United States.

Escobar’s rise to power provided cover for the growth and evolution of the Cali cartel. The Medellin operation was Escobar’s brainchild and relied on the fear he generated. He was a flexible general who could make major changes on a whim. The Cali operation is far more sophisticated and has embedded itself in local government and police through a complex system of bribery.

The Cali Cartel is run by a quartet; the Rodriguez brothers Gilberto (Damian Alcazar) and Miguel (Francisco Denis) and Pacho Herrera (Alberto Ammann). Viewers became acquainted with these characters in season 2 as their operation clashed with the Medellin cartel. They later help to bring down Escobar by paying the deadly Los Pepes vigilantes. The fourth player Chepe (Pepe Rapazote) is new to Narcos watchers and runs the New York end of the operation.

Season 3 is marked by numerous changes in the large cast of characters. DEA agent Murphy (Boyd Holbrook) has returned to the United States and Agent Javier Peña (Pedro Pascal) becomes the series narrator. Peña is in the uncomfortable position of being considered a hero for his role in Escobar’s takedown and for having become too connected to the activities of the Los Pepes vigilantes. In the fight against Cali, he is promoted and has to navigate a difficult course through new personalities and politics.

There are two new DEA agents Feistl (Michael Stahl-David) and Daniel Van Ness (Matt Whelan) who have plenty to learn about how to do their business in Colombia. A player to look for on the Cali side is Jorge Salcedo (Matias Varela). He is head of security. He created the network of telecommunications, wire-taps and human spies that keep the cartel fully apprised with what’s going on in Cali. Jorge finds his job complicated by having to deal with one of his bosses’ sons, the volatile and arrogant David Rodriguez (Broad City fans will recognise him as Arturo Castro who plays Jaimé).

Season 3 is necessarily a resetting of the audience expectations. Although Escobar is gone, the drug war remains. There are different battles to be fought, different alliances formed. We have to learn what the so-called “Gentlemen of Cali” are about; what makes these characters tick? The writers and producers take their time to unfold their narrative and by episode 4, we have a detailed appreciation of this dark and dangerous new crime world.

Season 4 has already been green-lit and there is some indication that the series will eventually follow the cocaine trade into Mexico. It is conceivable that Narcos could become a show with scope like television’s The Wire or the ground-breaking Italian Mafia series La Pivora. Fans of Narcos can be confident that this new batch of episodes-ten in all-is as dramatic and compelling as those of the first two seasons.

Narcos 3 is available on Netflix from September 1. (8/10)

This review was originally in AccessReel.com

Film Review: The Boss (2016)

THE BOSS is the latest Melissa McCarthy vehicle. She plays Michelle Darnell, a powerful mogul who markets the attainment of wealth with a glitzy Tony Robbins style seminar. These are arena-sized events for ordinary folks who want to make it big like their idol.  Michelle’s public persona is not subtle. She is a success-driven, A-type personality, who is also a narcissist that expects to be the centre of everyone’s attention.  She has made enemies, in particular a man called Renault (Peter Dinklage). It is a clash with him that results in her being sent to white-collar prison for insider trading. (Not a spoiler, folks, this is in the movie’s set-up).

When she emerges from prison, Michelle Darnell is penniless and friendless. No one wants to do business with an ex-con. Her circumstances are so reduced that she looks for help from the only person who will take her calls, her long-suffering former personal assistant Claire (Kristen Bell). As in any any decent redemption movie, Michelle hatches a plan to get back on top. Hers involves the equivalent of using Claire’s daughter’s Girl Scout Troop, but don’t get overly excited fans of Shelly Long and/or the 1980s, TROOP BEVERLY HILLS this ain’t.

Melissa McCarthy is having her cultural moment right now. Since her breakthrough part in the Paul Feig directed BRIDESMAIDS (2011), she has been money-in-the-bank for producers and studios. THE HEAT (2013) and last year’s hit comedy SPY (also with Feig) have taken in US $200 million plus, each, internationally. Even her lesser-regarded comedies like IDENTITY THIEF (2013) have done brisk business at the box office.

Most audiences find her flat-out funny. I have liked her work since she played Sookie in the Gilmore Girls (2000-07). She was justly Emmy nominated for her three guest starring appearances on Saturday Night Live.  Mike and Molly (2010-16) is a far funnier series thanks to her. Whether she is playing someone down-to-earth and relatable or one of her crazed grotesques, she has a knack for making you laugh hard or feel a character’s vulnerability.

The downside of the film is its story. Michelle Darnell is actually a terrible character, who says and does some awful things. The movie needed much tighter writing and direction to make this the equal of McCarthy’s best work. She co-wrote along with the movie’s director (and her real life husband) Ben Falcone.  It must be said that this outing is an improvement on their last movie project, TAMMY (2014). That was critically drubbed and still made a mint.

McCarthy plays Darnell with her usual sharp comedic skills and excellent timing and this is what saves THE BOSS. The physical slapstick and the verbal gags will entertain fans of her work, yet again. She is ably supported by Kristen Bell. Tyler Labine is winning as Bell’s slightly unlikely love interest. Peter Dinklage is funny as Darnell’s arch-nemesis Renault.

USA  | 99 minutes | (5/10)

This review first appeared on AccessReel.com (16/04/2016)

Film Review: Where to Invade Next (2015)

Michael Moore the filmmaker and political activist is back with a new feature, WHERE TO INVADE NEXT. Moore’s fictional premise is that he has been approached by America’s Joint Chiefs of Staff to work out why their nation hasn’t won a war since WW2. He takes it upon himself to travel across the world “invading” countries and “stealing” their best ideas to take them back the US. In practice, he visits a number of predominately European nations to investigate the way their employment, health care and education systems work, to name but three blockbuster societal arrangements. He suggests those darned Europeans are getting better productivity and happiness with their revolutionary ideas. All of which swims against the powerful notions of American exceptionalism and manifest destiny; if one believes in the American Dream, how can any other nation possibly have better ideas than the greatest nation on Earth?

This is exactly where Moore is a provocateur and irritant to many of his fellow Americans. The questions he poses are unsettling. More than anything, his leftist populism is a direct criticism of Wall Street and all the politicians who do the bidding of corporate America. He has held this position since his breakthrough movie ROGER & ME (1989) in which he questioned the economic and social effects of automobile plant closures on his hometown, Flint, Michigan.  His subsequent television work, TV Nation (1994) and The Awful Truth (1999) was in a similar vein and it could be argued this work was the radioactive spider bite that led to the political satire of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, This Week Tonight with John Oliver and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.

WHERE TO INVADE NEXT is being touted as somewhat of a comeback for Moore. He is definitely more optimistic here as he searches for answers to America’s problems. His award winning features BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE (2002) and FARHENHEIT 9/11 (2004) are darker and angrier films. Which isn’t to say Moore’s new movie doesn’t examine some of the darker parts of US history, but generally the tone is upbeat and comedic.

Moore seems to be doing his own Bernie Sanders act. In continuing to be who he is, it appears his political ideas are now attractive to many in the post Global Financial Crisis/Occupy generation. If you are the sort of person who believes there is a 1% who own all the wealth and are destroying democracy, then you will probably get behind Moore and his worldview. I will surprise no one by observing this is not a film for political conservatives and will go against everything you hold dear. Although I am largely in agreement with Moore’s argument that we should strive to create a more equal society, his omissions and manipulations are glaringly obvious at times. Even the most pro-Moore viewer will wonder about the one-sidedly rosy picture he paints of some of the nations he “invades”.

The film clocks in at whopping two hours. Television would be a better platform for a project of this length, however Moore obviously knows what works best for him economically. The movie is thought-provoking and although it is aimed specifically at the USA, our own nation is often influenced by American systems. In asking how some of these ideas would work in the American context, we can also ask the same of our own country. (6/10)

This review first appeared in AccessReel.com (14/04/2016)