Catch Up Reviews

2018, Uncategorized

I’ve missed a couple of months recently, and the truth is I’ve found it hard to find time to sit down and write reviews. There are a couple of reasons behind this. One of them is moving house. Apparently that’s quite stressful. The other one is my new job. The great thing is my new job allows me to do tons of writing, all film related, which is fantastic, and has for awhile obviously taken prominence. Not that I’ve stopped going to the cinema though, oh no. Now that I’m getting more of a balance back in my life I’m able to get  back to reviewing films. Yay! 

As I mentioned, I haven’t stopped going to the cinema. It felt like it would be a shame if my opinions on those films got lost to time, like tears in the rain. Yes, I do value my opinion that much. So I thought it would be a good idea to do a couple of mini reviews on the films I should have reviewed. Enjoy…

Ant-Man and The Wasp

Another enjoyable entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The problem was it couldn’t help but feel a bit light weight after Infinity War. Meant as a palette cleanse, it all felt a little too disposable. I loved Evangeline Lily as The Wasp, but felt here arc was a little wasted, so much more could have been done. Funny in places, the jokes did start to feel repetitive, and there were lapses within the inner logic of the movie. 

6/10

The Predator 

Shane Black didn’t reinvent the wheel with this one. What he did do though was deliver everything you would want from a movie about an alien game hunter. It’s not a great movie, it’s not that well made. The editing is all of the place, and it doesn’t make a huge heap of sense. It is incredibly fun though. There are some great characters, stellar jokes, and gratuitous violence. All in all, a good time at the movies. 

7/10

First Man

This is not a film about the achievements of man. It does not bask in the glory of space travel. It’s much more personal than that. It’s a story about a man who had to travel to the moon so that he could come back home. It’s a study on grief, and the different ways humans deal with it. What surprised me was just how moving this film was. It owes a huge amount of debt to The Right Stuff, an influence on Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, of which First Man shares a lot of DNA with. They would make a hell of a double bill together. 

8/10

Halloween 

Michael Myers is back. Again. Jamie Lee Curtis is back. Again. She’s dealing with PTSD after the events of the original movie, and he’s back trying to kill her. Again.  Yes, we’ve seen this before, but Halloween acts as a course correction for the series. Pretending that nothing past the first movie happened, this takes Halloween back to its roots. It’s brutal, scary, and fun. It’s not a perfect movie, but will reward fans of the series whilst serving as a great entry point for those new to the series. 

7/10

A Star Is Born

Filled with fantastic performances from Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, this remake of a remake is better than it had any right to be. It’s Coopers first film behind the camera, and he does a great job. The performance scenes are incredibly realistic, with the use of real venues and audiences paying off. The songs are great too, with Lady Gaga’s fantastic voice really selling the believability of the story. It’s poorly paced though, and could do with losing a good 30 minutes. I found it strange how little I was moved by the end of the film, which is a sure sign that something wasn’t quite working. 

6/10

Crazy Rich Asians 

I’m not a fan of romantic comedies. Generic. Boring. Fluff. I loved Crazy Rich Asians. It’s an incredibly well made comedy, with a likeable cast, and characters you can’t help but root for. This is all played against a spectacular backdrop, with an insight into a world and culture that was completely new to me. It’s charming, funny, and moving. I can’t recommend it highly enough. 

8/10

The Nun

I really like The Conjuring  movies. The movies focusing on The Warrens. The spin-offs so far have been a little underwhelming. The Nun is just the wrong side of boring.  It has one good jump scare which has been completely spoiled by the trailer. The lead actors a likeable enough, but there is such a whiff of unoriginality here. It’s all a bit The Exorcist, but without anything that makes that movie work. These films just end up so superficial, that they really aren’t about anything at all. I mean, you have a priest and a Nun in training and not once does anything here make them question their faith. It’s just characters going through the motion of the plot so they can get to the end of the film. 

4/10

The Meg

I wanted this to be so crazy bad I’m a way that makes the whole film ridiculous and fun. The film ends up being both bad and ridiculous,  but as if no one told the film makers that was the film they were making. Instead they try to make a serious movie which is part Jurassic Park, part Jaws. That’s not what people want from this movie. They want to see a giant fucking shark being punched in the face by Jason Statham. There was a point in the movie, probably the most serious, emotional conversation in the whole thing, and it was all I could do to not burst out laughing. It’s just awful. I was promised a movie where Jason Statham chases a giant shark across the high seas. It took an hour to set that up. It should have been a fun dumb movie. It ended up being dumb, boring, and bad. 

3/10

Venom

If Venom had come out in 2005 it would have been seen as the natural continuation of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man series. Lucky for us, we’ve had a decade of fantastic super-hero movies which have  really pushed the genre forward. It just seems like no one making Venom has seen any of those films. Tom Hardy is great, and the moments where Eddie Brock are bickering are great. The film excels when it unleashes it’s dark sense of humour. The action sequences are pretty well done too. It’s just a shame the film takes so long to get anywhere, and wastes its time with unnecessary sub plots which aren’t paid off. It’s by no means a bad film, and I left the cinema thinking I’d quite happily go and see a sequel, but there is plenty of work to be done. 

6/10

BlacKkKlansman

I loved this movie. It’s funny, suspenseful, emotional, and scary. Spike Lee sets his stall out early with Alec Baldwin playing a racist Doctor, creating a video about white supremacy. It’s clear the parallels Lee is trying to draw. The cast are all fantastic, in particular John David Washington in the lead role of Ron Stallworth. The film is both shocking and provocative, but also incredibly entertaining, but it does its job. When a racist cop is caught being misogynistic and racist on a wire tape, he is immediately fired, with someone declaring that the good old wire trick, it always works. You can’t help but think how the last guy got caught on tape didn’t get fired, he got elected president. 

9/10

Christopher Robin

A gentle, but affecting film. It starts off incredibly strong, and ends well, but the middle does drag an awful lot. I enjoyed the way the characters of Winnie The Pooh has been reimagined, and Ewan McGregor does a great job. It’s a film with its heart in the right place, it just has some serious pacing issues. It at times feels more like a nostalgia trip for grown ups rather than a children’s film, but it does include some quite childish moments, you can’t help but wonder who this film is actually meant for. There are moments in which the film clearly hints towards mental health, but then there are also sequences of Ewan McGregor playing with leaves in the woods. It’s all a bit disjointed. 

6/10

A Simple Favour

Pitched as Gone Girl with more laughs. This was supposed to be a more serious outing from comedy director Paul Feig. Sadly, this is very much a case of style over substance. It’s nowhere near intricately plotted enough. It’s reveals come across as damp squibs, and Anna Kendrick does her best to make the jokes land, but this film just isn’t clever enough. If it wasn’t for the starry cast, this would have been a TV movie, or a soap plot in the 90’s. As a mystery movie, it’s not interesting. As a thriller, it’s boring. It’s not funny enough to be called a comedy. It’s just all a bit bland. It needed to go deeper, to go darker to truly resonate. 

3/10

Well that’s it. I’m all up to date now, and hopefully should be back with more regular reviews. Please check out my latest review on The Nutcracker and The Four Realms

The Spy Who Dumped Me

2018, Uncategorized

Dir. Susanna Fogel

Starring: Mila Kunis, Kate McKinnon, Justin Theroux, Sam Heughan, Hasan Minhaj, and Gillian Anderson.

The Spy Who Dumped Me is a spy caper with edge. Not afraid to lean into the more violent tropes of espionage movies, whilst also mining them for comedic gold. It doesn’t always hit its target, and it overstays its welcome by about twenty minutes, but once it gets into its flow, it has some fantastic belly-laughs, and a wicked feminist streak.

The film centres around Mila Kunis’ Audrey, a depressed thirty year old, who has just been dumped, by text, by her boyfriend Justin Theroux. She soon finds out that Theroux is actually an international spy, who has left her in possession of an item of great importance. So important, people will kill to get hold of it. This sets her and her best friend Morgan, played by Kate McKinnon off on a globe trotting trip in an effort to stay alive.

It’s a classic spy movie set up which leans into the tone of the Bourne and Mission Impossible franchise, the surprise here is how violent the film goes for a comedy. Necks are snapped, blood goes everywhere, and it riffs on torture/interrogation scenes. Justin Theroux excels as a super spy, and you have to wonder why he hasn’t taken on more parts like this. The action beats are surprisingly good too, with fantastic use of practical effects and stunts. Its testament to director Susanna Fogel, that this film would work as a solid action film if all the jokes were taking out.

Thankfully though, the jokes haven’t been taken out. The formula here is simple, take a generic action movie and drop Kate McKinnon into the middle of it. She squeezes every scene, every line, for comedic potential. Her blend of surreal, weird humour contrasting incredibly well against the darker more serious moments of the plot. She has great chemistry with Mila Kunis too, and together they create a relationship which is wholly believable. As the film goes on, the women become more empowered, and get to kick some ass themselves, but it’s great to see them empowering each other. They lift each other up constantly, and show true solidarity.

To sum up, The Spy Who Dumped Me was an unexpected joy. It was darker then I expected, and leant into the violent aspects of the genre way more. It was also funnier than I expected, with some real laugh out loud moments. The star turn here is Kate McKinnon who all but steals every scene of the film. There’s a great cameo by Gillian Anderson too, which again McKinnon milks for all that it’s worth. Stay for the end credits though, you won’t regret it.

7/10

Deadpool 2

2018, Uncategorized

Dir. David Leitch

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Zazie Beetz, Brianna Hildebrand, Julian Dennison, Terry Crews, Bill Skarsgård, Rob Delaney, Lewis Tan, Eddie Marsan, Shioli Kutsuna, Karan Soni, and Stefan Kapicic.

Deadpool was something of a surprise hit when it came out in 2016. The foul mouthed comic book hero was an unknown entity, and the film was considered a risk by the studio. It took a campaign from star Ryan Reynolds, and some leaked test footage to convince Fox to green light the movie, of course with a limited budget, and even more limited access to the x-men franchise of which Deadpool is closely associated with. Now, the merc with the mouth is back. Original director Tim Miller is gone, creative differences were cited, and is replaced with one half of the John Wick team, David Leitch. Deadpool 2 is also released with a different weight of expectation , the first one was an unprecedented hit, and Deadpool is now more eagerly anticipated than actual X-Men movies.

Deadpool 2 follows on where the first movie left off. Wade Wilson is now living happily with his long term girlfriend Vanessa, whilst also being a successful gun for hire, only going after the bad guys. Soon tragedy hits, and Deadpool finds himself in a depressive slump. He finds new purpose though when he meets Julian Dennison’s troubled teen, mutant Russell. Deadpool sets about trying to connect with, and help Russell, even if that means standing up to Josh Brolin’s time travelling, half cyborg assassin, Cable. Who is hell bent on killing Russell for a future wrong.

If you liked Deadpool, you’re going to love Deadpool 2. It’s laugh out loud funny throughout. Continuing the meta commentary of the first, Ryan Reynolds is allowed to skewer comic book movies, pop culture, the movie industry, and his own career. There are also great moments of physical and visual comedy. One beat, which showcases Wade Wilson’s regenerative powers, is a particular stand out. The introduction of the X-Force too, which involves some skydiving in high winds is also hilarious, showcasing that it isn’t just Ryan Reynolds commentary that makes Deadpool so funny. Deadpool 2 is as funny, if not funnier, than its predecessor, it also ups the action stakes too.

The bigger budget for the sequel is, thankfully, evident on screen. The film certainly looks a lot better than the first one, if some of the CGI is still under par. Director David Leitch brings new ideas to the action sequences. This isn’t to say that Deadpool now fights like John Wick, he still retains his own style of fighting, and Leitch adds an inventiveness to the way he uses his powers. Broken limbs and spare body parts are incorporated into the fights. The big action sequences look better too, being a sequel they are much bigger, but Leitch nails them. It’s not just the action that’s expanded, the cast have too. In all, the new cast members are well incorporated, although they are still only using d-list X-Men. Zazie Beetz is the most impressive, with new character Domino, and Rob Delaney all but steals the show as Peter, an ordinary civilian who joins X-Force just because he saw the ad and thought it looked like fun. There are also some blink and you’ll miss them cameos, which are a great laugh.

I couldn’t help but leave feeling slightly disappointed. I have to admit I felt this way with the first one. The plot is much more complex than the first film, which does add more emotional resonance, but at the end of the day it’s just used as the line to hang the jokes on. It’s a hard balance with Deadpool jokes, they have to be relevant enough to comment on what’s happening today, but at the same time this makes the whole film more disposable. In five years time jokes about Logan and the DCEU will be outdated, and the references that are a bit more aged seem a little weird, there’s an extended monologue about Interview With A Vampire, which whilst funny, is only going to connect with certain cinema goers. It would have also been nice to see them reflect current issues in the movie industry more. There’s a whole line of commentary about women in film, and how the industry treats them, which could have been used, but Deadpool never goes there. It’s especially jarring when you have TJ Miller in a main role, who is dealing with historic accusations, and some behaviour problems which have led him to be cut from future Deadpool movies. Josh Brolin was a great Cable, but the character was severely underused, both in terms of action, and jokes, which may have been the biggest disappointment.

I had a good time watching Deadpool 2. It’s at least as good as the first film, if not slightly better in the action department. There’s a disposability to these movies though, that can leave them feeling slightly shallow. It has a punk rock feel to things, but this is now a studio tentpole, and that means certain things are off the table, and things are played a little safe.

7/10

 

Life Of The Party

2018, Uncategorized

Dir. Ben Falcone

Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Gillian Jacobs, Debby Ryan, Adria Arjona, Julie Bowen, Maya Rudolph, Matt Walsh, Jessie Ennis, and Molly Gordon

Melissa McCarthy’s filmography can be split into two parts. To put it simply there’s the good, where she really shines, and then there’s the bad, where she becomes increasingly annoying. Two of the worst culprits that fall into the bad category are Tammy and The Boss. Which isn’t great news as Ben Falcone who directs here, also directed those. McCarthy and Falcone are also married, and they populate this film with their friends and members of their old improv group, which makes you wonder if they see these films as a working holiday. What they’ve produced here is non-sensical at best, and at its worst is one of the most terrible comedies of the year.

McCarthy plays Deanna, a married, middle aged mum, whose life is turned upside down when her husband announces he wants a divorce as they drop their daughter off for her last year at college. In an effort to come to turns with this loss, and her new found freedom, Deanna decides to go back to college with her daughter, and finish her degree. She ends up attending sorority parties, sleeping with other students, and facing her fear of public speaking. All whilst… I can’t go on with this. The film is ludicrous, there’s no point in trying to get to the bottom of what it’s about.

The film just doesn’t work. It’s not funny, it’s not charming, and it doesn’t have a strong central message. It’s all over the show. To call it a complete mess is an understatement. There are points in the film which are so bizarre you start to question if you’re actually in the theatre, or if you’re asleep, having a fever dream. The actors themselves don’t seem to know what movie they are in, and the performances are pitched at different tones. Maya Rudolph is particularly grating, in an over the top performance that would only feel at home in an SNL sketch.

The big problem here is in the directing and editing. It feels like they had a rough outline for the film, and then just let the actors riff off the situations. This can work. Films like Anchorman thrived because of this style, but that film had a surrealist setting which suited it. Here the surrealism feels off. McCarthy plays Deanna sympathetically, and for her, she is pretty grounded. She’s mourning the break up of her marriage, and these two tones clash awkwardly. There are some good jokes, but each scene felt like it went on too long, with jokes being over-explained. It’s like a film that’s comprised of five minute sketches, none of which fully gel together. Falcone also tones down the physical comedy that McCarthy does so well, but the few brief moments of slapstick garnered the biggest laughs.

It’s not a good film. It’s an increasingly odd film, but it’s not a horrible film. There are some nice messages of finding independence, girls sticking together, and not letting she get in your way. It’s just poorly made and not very funny. A tighter focus, and a tighter edit could have really improved it.

3/10