The screen critic: Action, action and more action

Mar 24, 2023
Keanu Reeves gets ready for work in John Wick: Chapter 4 (Lionsgate); Mia Goth in Pearl (A24); Jim Carrey as Andy Kaufman in Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond.

Hungry for action? Lots of action? So much action you’ll think all your Christmases had come at once in the form of an action movie? Then John Wick: Chapter 4 is here to please and will leave you positively saturated.

Those familiar with the shoot-everything-that-moves stylings of professional killer John Wick (Keanu Reeves) are in for mega-sized servings of the type of frenzied gun battles and chase sequences so efficiently delivered in the first three films.

At 170 minutes, the film is way too long with a paper-thin plot as Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgard), the head of the High Table, orders Wick’s execution. He hires blind assassin Caine (Donnie Yen) to do the deed but, just to be safe, throws the gig open to any hired gun looking for an easy way to make a lazy $20 million.

To be honest, the best way to enjoy the film is to revel in the prolonged, intricately staged action scenes – with the chase across Paris a major highlight – and treat the elongated dialogue exchanges as an opportunity to nip out to the restroom or to get another over-priced bag of sweets. 

The new wave of top-quality horror continues with Pearl, the tale of Pearl (Mia Goth), a sweet Texas farm girl in 1918 who, while awaiting the return of her husband from the European battlefields, dreams of becoming a dancer in the movies.

Sounds like a nice romantic film from the 1950s, a tone reflected by the film’s colourful opening, upbeat music, sunny scenery, and Pearl’s pleasant disposition.

Only Pearl is certifiably bonkers.

Living with her strict mother and infirm father, Pearl has strange tastes when it comes to romance, her wildly unpredictable behaviour is guaranteed to have you riveted to your seat while wondering what on earth she is going to get up to next.

Fans of top-tier terror will love her. And she’ll make sure you never look at a scarecrow in the same way again.        

Thanks to bitter experience, we all know by now to regard any high-profile $150 million superhero sequel with the suspicion that it’ll likely turn out to be a generic bland out.

Sadly, those suspicions are realized with Shazam! Fury of the Gods, the latest cardboard epic from DC studios (rival to Marvel, as if you didn’t know) offers multiplex audiences a same-same sequel nobody really needed.

As Shazam (Zachary Levi) and his team of minor-league superheroes do battle with two evil femmes (Lucy Liu & Helen Mirren) the screen is repeatedly filled with the type of visual effects we’ve seen before, over and over. 

Shazam 2 is simply chewing gum for the eyes with a story you’ll start forgetting before you reach the foyer.    

As well as pumping out films at the rate of about one per week, Netflix has become renowned for producing high-quality documentaries, both as one-off features and as limited series. Here are three that are definitely worth checking out. 

Showing the extremes of method acting, Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond explores the depth of dedication Jim Carrey applied when portraying bizarre comedian Andy Kaufman in the 1999 biopic Man on the Moon.

Though it wasn’t a hit the film, directed by Milos Forman (Amadeus; One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), boasts Carrey’s finest performance as Kaufman, an entertainer who refused to obey any comedy rules other than the one that said “keep them watching”.

In this excellent, revealing 2017 doco we flit between reflective interviews with Carrey and behind-the-scenes video footage – most of it harvested from a huge archive the studio had kept locked away – that show how deeply Carrey had sunk into character, often remaining in character off the set. Remarkable stuff.

With pornography now so ubiquitous thanks to the internet, Money Shot: The Pornhub Story takes us inside the workings of the world’s most famous adult entertainment platform.

Exploring some hard truths and controversies about how it operates in an era of do-it-yourself pornographers and online lobby groups, we see how Pornhub yielded to pressure for more regulation and tighter controls after legal action over child exploitation and trafficking hit the headlines. 

Though the film doesn’t dismiss the public concern over the platform’s excesses and mismanagement, it does side too much with the sex workers who make a living off the site. It’s a sizeable fumble in an otherwise fine look at a website people only ever say they’ve heard about but, of course, have never visited.    

There are plenty of clues, false leads, and a few contentious conspiracy theories amidst all the head-scratching in MH370: The Plane That Disappeared, a good, somewhat controversial, ultimately frustrating, look at the mystery that raises plenty of tantalizing questions but provides no answers as to what happened to that Malaysian Airlines flight and its 239 souls on the night of 8 March 2014.

Across its three hour-long episodes the series first details the facts of the disappearance before diving into the swirls of speculation about where the plane went after it suddenly went silent, vanishing from all radar screens.

We now take it as said that any tragedy of scale will rouse a bevy of theories about what occurred, and the series spends some time exploring the origin and credibility of several. 

But it’s not the tabloid indulgence the show has been criticized for, addressing the online culture of conspiracy theories with a fairly level head.

Above all and most importantly, the series never loses focus on those who were lost and those who were left behind.

For more visit with updates on Twitter at @jimschembri 

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