M3GAN review: There are a few jumps and silly slayings, but not enough gore to keep you awake on these dark nights
THE first few weeks of the year can be a dumping ground for films where often the ones that should have got away are released to the masses.
So it seems quite the treat that we are handed a quirky and laugh-out-loud horror in the shape of the doll-that-never-sleeps, M3GAN.
The film opens with a commercial selling a pet that “never dies”, unlike pesky real pets — the Furby.
It’s an annoying interactive robot animal that kids are hooked on taking care of.
Its inventor is Gemma (Allison Williams) — an independent, single workaholic whose life is thrown into disarray when she becomes the legal guardian of her 12-year-old niece Cady (Violet McGraw).
Cady has been left broken by the sudden death of both her parents.
Gemma has lived a life of glasses on coasters and collecting Japanese toys still in their boxes.
She does not know how to cope with Cady so she does what any worried aunt would do.
She creates an artificial intelligence doll — one that moves, speaks and understands human emotions — to bring her up.
The unnervingly realistic robot is called M3GAN and soon becomes Cady’s best friend and confidante.
While she is deeply creepy, M3GAN isn’t all bad at first.
Having taught Cady how to use a coaster and flush the loo, she is fiercely loyal to the little girl.
Which means destroying anything that upsets her.
Director Gerard Johnstone creates an almost lovable demon in the form of M3GAN, with her evil ways having vaguely good intentions — and you have to admire the fact she can do a really chilling side-eye.
When Gemma tries to remove M3GAN from Cady after a malfunction that has clearly turning the droid into a serial killer, her niece’s response is one that many parents have endured when banning screen time.
There’s screaming, violence, rage and begging — and with it the eerie reminder we don’t know the full extent of the damage we’re doing when we pass little hands technology.
This may be one of the most terrifying realisations during this film, which never quite gets to the heart of horror.
There are a few jumps and silly slayings, but not enough gore to keep you awake on these dark nights.
This living doll will, however, have you checking your kid’s iPad settings for a good while.
THERE is a great deal to admire about this story of fictional composer/conductor Lydia Tar, who sees her life and career unravel when accused of sexual misconduct and bullying.
The electrifying performance by Cate Blanchett in the lead role is an acting masterclass and will quite possibly win her an Oscar.
And the muted tones, stylish sets and excellent ensemble cast are all delicious to watch.
Yet in director Todd Field’s first time behind the camera since 2006’s Little Children, there’s a great deal to be incredibly frustrated by, too.
The pace is often painfully slow and frequently feels pretentious, with the first two hours lethargic.
Then, in the last 40 minutes it seems to accelerate as though it suddenly realises there’s a lot of story left to tell.
An early scene between Tar and fellow conductor Elliot Kaplan (Mark Strong in a sad-looking wig) lasted so long I found myself hypnotised by whether Tar was going to eat a piece of buttered bread, rather than being able to absorb the incredibly chewy dialogue.
Blanchett’s brilliance papers over the cracks of this walking-through-treacle tale that hits a bum-numbing note.
THE OLD WAY
WATCHING a Nicolas Cage movie in recent years is like a game of heads or tails.
Sometimes you win, as with Pig or The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent.
Other times you lose, like with this utterly mediocre take on the Western.
From the moment an early close-up shows a short-lived character wearing some sort of Specsavers spectacles, it’s clear the film would be cutting corners – in quality and authenticity.
And no amount of Cage’s special sauce could elevate his reformed killer-turned-family-man Colton Briggs.
He’s on a mission for vengeance after his wife is murdered by a gang.
It’s a paint-by-numbers Western but Brett Donowho, directing a woeful script by Carl W. Lucas, could barely keep the colours within the lines.
The editing is jarring, the camerawork is sloppy and the heavy-handed dialogue boasts such eye rolling lines as “The dead ain’t selfish. I like the dead”.
The poor man’s True Grit relationship between Cage and on screen daughter Ryan Kiera Armstrong might be the film’s only redeeming quality.
The pair share a spark but it’s ultimately dampened by a tepid script and poor direction.
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