Repo Man (1984)

I wouldn’t know how to ever describe this film, it goes slightly beyond comprehension in the most fantastic way. The film is actually theoretically quite dense but its disguised by layers and layers of fantastic 80s kitsch and comedy so much so that it’d be incredibly easy to miss any deeper point and to just enjoy it for what it is.

The film stars Emilio Estevez as Otto, an 18 year old kid from a poor family who pretends to be older than he is and has an outlandish style, complete with a Madonna-esque holy cross earring. Otto has a surprise induction into the world of repo man but finds himself embracing this lifestyle, the mentorship and the code that it comes with. As repo men they repossess cars of people who cant pay their bills and hold them till they pay up, however, its not all that simple as they have a fierce rivalry with the other repo men in town, the Rodrigues brothers. The car is central to this film, set in LA, a fragmented city where you have to drive everywhere, the car becomes an incredibly significant representation of the driver, it is it’s own self contained world. The identity affixed to cars is a key part of Otto’s own self discovery of his identity. It sounds simple enough, but theres more, a trio of punk anarchists are wreaking havoc across LA, with such fantastic lines as ‘lets go do some crime’, they are a biting satire of counter cultural youths who don’t contribute much to the narrative but are so ridiculous and funny you’ll always be glad when they pop up. As if this wasn’t all enough for a fleshed out film, I neglected to mention the opening, which sets up a huge element of the film. The opening finds a man driving a malibu in the desert with a secret in his trunk, this secret is alien life and anyone who opens the trunk gets immediately evaporated, the radiation is also destroying this driver the longer he’s around it. This malibu becomes a hot commodity that Otto and his crew compete with the Rodrigues brothers to find in order to claim the bounty, they’re not the only ones, theres a conspiracy group, the United Fruitcake Organisation (UFO) and a government branch lead by a torture happy woman with a metal hand. All these groups try to get the malibu, backstabbing each other, forming alliances, having fights and eventually converging on the malibu, now glowing from radiation, causing a literal storm and setting people on fire. Otto and one of his co-workers get in the car which proceeds to raise into the air and fly around the city, like Grease but radioactive. So yeah, its a pretty crazy film.

I’m not going to try and unpack the film properly, that’s a job for a potential essay and either way I’d need to watch it again, needless to say, theres a lot at play in this film and some interesting ideas being represented. The film has a wide range of visual and spoken comedy mixed in with some slightly more serious moments. It is a genre bending, sci-fi, drama, comedy, post-modern, action epic and I don’t think I’ll ever see anything quite like it again.

The Good Place – Season 1 (2016)

This was a binge watch in varying states of sobriety so my recollection may not be as detailed, and unlike every other time I say I’ll keep things short and then write loads, I really think this one will be short.

Written by Mike Schur, the creator of Parks and Recreation, a favourite sitcom of mine, The Good Place is similar in some ways regarding the tone especially, but at the same time an entirely different beast. The main similarity comes in the form of kindness, one of the things that made Parks and Rec stand out so much was that everyone was overall kind to one another (excluding poor Jerry). With The Good Place being set in heaven, this niceness is a common thread and its reflected by the bright, colourful aesthetic and characters who by and large treat each other nicely. This setting also provides some clever humour as expletives are not fit for heaven and as such they are replaced by similar sounding, albeit unrelated words, a clever and humorous solution to the limitations of cable TV. However unlike, Parks and Rec, The Good Place isn’t actually particularly funny, its very pleasant and enjoyable but I can’t recall any jokes that actively made me laugh, perhaps this is due to a much smaller ensemble and a less compelling lead than Leslie Knope. This isn’t Kristen Bell’s fault, she does a good job with a not particularly interesting character, in fact none of the characters are particularly interesting and therein lies the problem. The ensemble does a good job with their material, particularly Kristen Bell and Ted Danson (also wonderful in Fargo S2) and a standout performance from D’arcy Carden who provides the bulk of the show’s humour and she does it so fantastically. However the characters lack chemistry and dont feel like a particularly united ensemble, perhaps due to the lack of group scenes or scenes where we have odd character pairings as the focus is almost always on Bell. This seems like a somewhat unfair critique as all sitcoms take time to find their footing and develop that chemistry, which is particularly hard with only 13 episodes, perhaps in the next season they’ll form a more cohesive group.

What the show lacks in outright laughter, it makes up for with its incredibly finely tuned and precise narrative which is unlike any sitcom I can recall ever seeing. The show has a great concept that could last many seasons but the show never rests on that, they completely change the dynamic about halfway through and then have a finishing plot twist that makes season 2 incredibly exciting, but also incredibly difficult to figure out how it will work. The plot twists never feel extraneous or forced but rather quite natural to the world Schur created, you can tell this show was intricately planned before production, as these plot twists are pulled off perfectly, more so than Westworld (which I loved) that prided itself on its twisty narrative but got quite messy. The writers employ an Orange is the New Black-esque mode of flashbacks to provide insight into the characters’ backgrounds, showing life before death as opposed to life before prison.

Despite not being the funniest show ever, it is really very enjoyable and must be applauded for the commitment to the complex narrative especially in a genre that doesn’t expect it. I’ll definitely watch season 2, but maybe wait for it to be over so I can binge it as that feels like a good way to watch this show.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

I don’t really have all that much to say about this film to be honest, although I’m not sure it’s a film that warrants all that much commentary.

I’d been wanting to see this film for a long time last year due to it being lauded as one of the best films of 2016 (particularly on Reddit) and I finally got the opportunity the other night thanks to Netflix (all praise). It’s an odd film really in a lot of ways, there certainly is a humour to it, that’s undeniable but I found the humour quite lacking, there were moments, particularly at the beginning that really got laughs from me and my mum but these moments were sparse and the middle section seemed to lack them completely. Despite not being as funny as expected, it was an undeniably sweet and heartwarming film (shout out to Bella, the best foster mother in film) but in an entirely predictable way, it bordered on becoming too syrupy towards the end but just managed to avoid it.

I appreciated that the film addressed, if only briefly the huge shortcomings of the foster care system, any more reference to this would have been too much. I also liked that it allowed a character and a dog to die and without giving it too much ceremony but just presenting the fact.

Taika Waititi’s direction and script have a fun and energetic tone but somehow the film, despite clocking in at just over an hour and a half, felt far longer than it was. I’m not sure I’d recommend this film to anyone to be honest, but I definitely don’t regret watching it, I suppose this is another victim of overhyping. Acting was strong throughout barring one notable exception, I particularly enjoyed Bella, Psycho Sam and the dogs.