Film Reviews by Christopher Chiu-Tabet

Welcome to Christopher Chiu-Tabet's film reviews page. Christopher Chiu-Tabet has written 16 reviews and rated 2541 films.

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Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol.2

James Gunn's sequel is a cathartic experience for anyone with bad parents

(Edit) Updated 01/07/2020

What we have here is perhaps the creepiest, most abusive villain in any Marvel Comics film to date, and arguably the worst father in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (if it’s possible to be worse than Thanos). There's an amazing gag here that is all the more brilliant because it has a dramatic payoff in the climax, rather than being a set-up for another joke. The film is a reminder that our original families don’t often work out, and we form new ones to replace them. We realise someone doesn’t have to related by blood to be your personal David Hassellhoff, and perhaps they’re stronger because you realise they love you even without the biology of unconditional love.

Full spoilery reflection here: https://medium.com/@CCTabet/the-cathartic-story-of-family-in-guardians-of-the-galaxy-vol-2-1b7f66f6da9f

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Valhalla

Admirable modern Danish attempt at recreating local children's comic/folklore

(Edit) 30/06/2020

Valhalla (Valhalla: Legend of Thor over here) is a Danish film adaptation of the Carlsen Comics series created by Peter Madsen and Henning Kure in 1979. A gritty yet still family-friendly take on Norse mythology, the movie emphasises naturalistic lighting, handheld camerawork, shallow depth-of-field, and inventive low budget design decisions, which sells the illusion we are actually in the weird, murky world Norse people believed in. Tonally, the film’s look and feel is a stark contrast with the fast paced, uncomplicated script adapted from the cartoonish comic: this is simply a sweet but darkly filmed story about a young girl whose impulsive bravery shakes the gods out of apathy. Director Fenar Ahmad seems to have tried to make both an adaptation of a kid’s comic and a faithful Thor movie, but kids who don’t mind subtitles will likely be put off by the grim tone, while adults interested in pagan stories may be disappointed it’s shorter, simpler, and nowhere as violent as they might’ve expected.

This’ll probably appeal most to young cinephiles looking for a familiar way into world cinema; weird kids who love Jim Henson’s darker, non-Muppets output; and pagan experts longing for something beyond Marvel. I’ve got something in common with all three of those groups, and I think a Danish fantasy-adventure based on local legends is pretty cool, so I enjoyed Valhalla despite its tonal disparity. Besides, there’s a moment where Odin plays a board game with Mímir’s disembodied head — it may not be Thor: Ragnarok, but I bet Taika Waititi wishes he’d thought of that.

Full review here: http://www.multiversitycomics.com/reviews/valhalla/

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The Death of Stalin

Hilarious and chillingly relevant

(Edit) Updated 24/06/2020

Armando Iannucci’s bleakly funny film adaptation of Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin’s French graphic novel “La Mort de Staline” provides plenty of laughs, and not just because its depiction of a government run on fear and incompetence could feel all too familiar. A lesser director may have resorted to having the cast all put on Russian voices, to accentuate the comical tone, but Iannucci’s decision removes the audience from the comfort of being a dispassionate observer. It contributes to an unsettling feeling that any of this could be happening right now in London or Washington D.C., and that we aren’t special, that we too could easily adjust to living in a murderous, authoritarian regime. It is as alarming as it is funny to see Soviet officers grab a doctor in the middle of a park, to say the least. Rupert Friend stands out as Stalin’s alcoholic son Vasily, who spits out insults like “pie” and “testicle” with such aplomb that they sound like swear words. (He also participates in the funniest fight scene – if you can call it that – of 2017.)

Full review here: http://www.multiversitycomics.com/reviews/the-death-of-stalin/

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Days of the Bagnold Summer

Charming, poignant comedy-drama from a first-time director and screenwriter

(Edit) Updated 24/06/2020

Days of the Bagnold Summer is a perfectly fine and funny film, and definitely doesn’t overstay its welcome at only 90 minutes. First-time director Simon Bird displays a quiet confidence behind the camera, with the cinematography by Simon Tindall largely eschewing close-ups in favor of wide shots. Monica Dolan is great as Sue, perfectly embodying that mild-mannered friend every British woman seems to have. The movie’s main challenge is ensuring her son Daniel remains sympathetic throughout, which is easier said than done, but as the film continues, you start to remember your own conflicts with your parents, and perhaps your own struggles making friends.

Full review here: http://www.multiversitycomics.com/reviews/bagnold-summer-movie/

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Terminator: Dark Fate

It's a shame there won't be a sequel

(Edit) 23/06/2020

The film takes a leaf from Star Wars‘ book by placing an old protagonist in the story of a new hero whose journey echoes their own: however, the film is considerably more strident in rejecting the idea of a chosen one or messiah. The movie bravely has Schwarzenegger absent from the majority of its runtime: it’s refreshing to see an action film revolve primarily around three terrific actresses. The cinematography is solid (with lots of slow-mo to help you appreciate the action), but unspectacular, making you long for the neon nightmares of the first two films’ imagery: likewise, its brief moments of body horror can’t compare with the evocative and visceral effects Stan Winston crafted on both of James Cameron’s films. Where Tim Miller and Cameron’s minds meet is in understanding the Terminator franchise is not a Luddite story, that it is not a story of man vs. machine, but about machines programmed to emulate the worst of humanity’s impulses. Fans who miss Sarah Connor Chronicles will likely appreciate this best as a feature-length episode of that series.

Full review: http://www.multiversitycomics.com/reviews/terminator-dark-fate/

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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

A beautifully designed meta homage to the Spider-Man comics

(Edit) 23/06/2020

It feels like many movies crammed into one, all jostling for your attention: it is at once the heartfelt origin story of Miles Morales’s Spider-Man, a crazy kaleidoscope of cartoon art styles, and a comedic meta-commentary on how many Spider-Man movies we’ve had. It somehow manages to work, mostly. Although the film borrows its title from Dan Slott and Olivier Coipel’s 2014 crossover event ‘Spider-Verse,’ it proves to be a surprisingly faithful adaptation of Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli’s original “Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man” run. Nicolas Cage is the most fun as the hard-boiled, melodramatic Spider-Man Noir. The stylistic experiment doesn’t fully pay off, for example, the depth-of-field can strain your eyes if you aren’t focusing on the same thing as the camera wants you to, and certain shots look more like CG than cel animation, which can be distracting. The brief flickers of simpler artwork to accentuate certain action-packed moments also does feel rather on-the-nose. But overall, the film’s worth watching alone to see, and forgive the cliche, a comic book come alive.

Full review here: http://www.multiversitycomics.com/reviews/into-the-spider-verse/

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BumbleBee

A sweet if familiar platonic love story that brings sincerity to the Transformers films

(Edit) 23/06/2020

Hailee Steinfeld is excellent in this slightly obvious E.T./Iron Giant homage. Charlie and Bumblebee’s relationship is so sweet, and watching the Decepticons deceive Sector 7 is so interesting, that it’s a shame things get a bit predictable when the two storylines inevitably meet. As much as Travis Knight has redesigned to the Transformers to look like their simpler Generation 1 selves, the fight sequences are still an overly violent and heavily choreographed series of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em matches. Still, Bumblebee finally lets us watch live-action Transformers without any crass, puerile or sexist distractions. So while it doesn’t really offer anything new, it has a heart and a soul, and that is always something that we can be thankful for.

Full review here: http://www.multiversitycomics.com/reviews/bumblebee/

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X-Men Origins: Wolverine

It was never canon to me

(Edit) 23/06/2020

After renting and watching it, my brother and I turned to each other and declared, “That wasn’t canon.” We loved X2, and we both knew Wolverine did not lose his memories because of an adamantium bullet. It was frustrating to see Wolverine’s traumatic origin story turned into a pale, focus group-tested version of X-Men 4. Ultimately, what can we say about it ten years later? That, well, at least the Wolverine trilogy got its bad entry out of the way, unlike the original and First Class series? That it’s a shame this was Liev Schreiber’s only pass at Sabretooth, or thank God that it was erased by Days of Future Past? Or that it’s only useful as the answer to the pub trivia contest questions, “What was the first Deadpool movie called?,” “Which superhero did Troye Sivan play?,” or “What was Multiversity Comics founded to talk about?”

Full retrospective here: http://www.multiversitycomics.com/reviews/xmow-ten-years-later/

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Colossal

A Kaiju Movie About Abusive Relationships

(Edit) 23/06/2020

Touching on themes of addiction, mental illness, abuse, misogyny and class, Colossal is a worthy companion to Get Out (which came out the same year). If there is one, one problem with Colossal would be that race isn’t as looked into as misogyny or class. Though Anne Hathaway does a great job conveying her character’s horror at the destruction and lives lost in Seoul, she does come across as a bit of a white saviour at one point. Overall, this film is a weird and wonderful twist of monster movies and chick flicks: one we’ll likely discuss for years to come.

Full spoilery review here: https://medium.com/@nerdypoc/colossal-a-kaiju-movie-about-abusive-relationships-f6a2f153254e

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Baby Driver

Edgar Driver's weakest film

(Edit) 23/06/2020

It’s an exhausting film and nowhere as funny as Wright's previous work, the dazzlingly choreographed car chases and cinematography undermined by an utterly dull protagonist: Simon Pegg’s absence as star and co-writer is sorely felt. Almost everyone else in the film is far more interesting than the lead, who is as hollow as the action figures he resembles. Baby Driver’s dialogue is often just dizzying, overly long and ultimately unmemorable diatribes. It becomes as frantic and desperate to create laughs as a Michael Bay movie, and ultimately it’s a shame to see Wright make a film too close to the ones he used to parody.

Full review here: https://medium.com/@CCTabet/baby-driver-review-9d81434d5e59 (NB. this was written before the allegations about Spacey and Elgort.)

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Good Time

I saw this for free at a critic's screening and still hated it

(Edit) 23/06/2020

An excruciatingly long indie thriller directed by Ben and Josh Safdie that’s somehow just 100 minutes long, Good Time is shot without a steadicam, largely told within a claustrophobic and grainy series of close-ups and mid close-ups. It adds to an increasing sense of irritation and tedium, compounded by a janky, loud electronic score that contributes to a feeling of nausea, as do the lack of witty lines (instead we’re subjected to a never-ending series of f-bombs). Ben Safdie is pretty good pretending to be the protagonist's disabled brother, properly conveying the physical heft and emotional vulnerability many of us have: it’s just a shame that he didn’t focus on the screenwriting and sound editing instead.

Full review here: https://medium.com/@nerdypoc/good-time-robert-pattinsons-new-film-is-actually-a-terrible-time-8b1699a7dd27

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Titanic

One of the most beautiful films ever made

(Edit) 23/06/2020

Three things about seeing Titanic as a child: it made me take up sketching; Leo made me realise I'm 2 percent bi; and it taught me about class. Like many I participated in the inevitable Titanic backlash, probably in some failed attempt to ingratiate myself with other hypermasculine boys my age, and probably because I felt I’d outgrown it with Power Rangers and Pokemon. But by 2005, when the film received a special edition DVD, I’d realised, hang on, no, James Cameron is a bloody genius, and Titanic is masterful, despite some clunky dialogue (do not play a drinking game with the lines “Jack” and “Rose”). I’ve even formed an opinion on whether Rose dies at the end or not.

Read my full, 20th anniversary reflection here: https://medium.com/@CCTabet/titanic-20-years-on-c95b81b932ed

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Ghostbusters 3

It's fine, better than most remakes

(Edit) 23/06/2020

To the surprise of no one who saw Bridesmaids, The Heat and Spy, it’s an enjoyable if sometimes scrappy film populated by talented comic actresses whom you’ll definitely want to spend more time with as the credits roll. Leslie Jones was particularly enjoyable, probably because the character she played would have been relegated to bit player in any other blockbuster. (Contrastively, Chris Hemsworth’s secretary is far too dumb to be believable.) The climax is at least far more spectacular and emotional than the original, instilling a sense of jeopardy it could not, and even including a nod to Dan Akroyd’s unproduced Hellbent script. There’s definitely one area the new Ghostbusters trumps the original; like Ghostbusters II, the villain (played by Neil Casey) is far more creepy than Zuul.

Full review here: https://medium.com/@CCTabet/ghostbusters-reboots-and-the-benefits-of-low-expectations-26903c4f3f82

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How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

A poignant conclusion, if oddly conventional

(Edit) 23/06/2020

It’s a beautiful ending, one that left me almost on the verge of tears — it’s also a strikingly conventional one. The first How to Train Your Dragon was about an outcast whose capacity for invention, and to think outside the box, changed the world: it was the story of a boy whose inability to be like his warmongering father (who was literally called Stoick) helps bring about a fantasy land where humans and dragons live in harmony. In the second film, Hiccup discovers he inherited his Bohemian side from his mother, who has been living a rustic existence all this time with dragons. The third and final film, on the other hand, is about growing up, and putting away childish things. It’s an insightful message for the film’s younger audience about the inevitability of change when you grow older, but it didn’t ring true for this millennial fan.

Full spoilery thoughts here: https://medium.com/@CCTabet/the-curious-ending-of-how-to-train-your-dragon-the-hidden-world-5a9c3ae26859

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The Dark Knight

Batman and Two-Face as a powerful modern crime epic

(Edit) 23/06/2020

The Dark Knight is an emotionally exhausting film that shocked and moved audiences by asking them how they would respond to unrelenting, irrational evil, its very title a byword for how relevant and insightful a superhero film could be; it has cast a long shadow on every comic book movie since. For me, The Dark Knight tells me to “endure.” It’s a message that’s arguably more potent now in the midst of the Trump era, as opposed to when the film came out at the tail end of the Bush administration. When the film came out, it felt like people had stopped worrying about terrorism. Now, it feels like more and more people are willing to give up virtues of tolerance, respect, and generosity for some feeling of security. It reminds me that there’ll always be heroes out there, under-appreciated, sometimes despised, but nevertheless always ready to do the right thing, never giving into anger and despair.

Full essay here: http://www.multiversitycomics.com/longform/the-dark-knight-at-10/

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