Films I’ve Avoided This Year

So we’ve been a bit quiet for a while. There’s a reason for that. I aimed to review every film I’ve seen at the cinema this year, but I haven’t seen anything in about a month. “woo, see every film!” very quickly changes to “see every film?” around this time of year and I find myself struggling to find the energy to be bothered about the incredibly minimal releases. Films have been released but they’re like Solo, Jurassic World etc. All of them are franchises I haven’t really paid much attention to. Both of those were released close to each other and dominated cinema schedules. So they were out, as were the films I’ve already seen (Deadpool 2, Infinity War), which left me with terrible children’s movies, and I just don’t hate myself quite that much. But there are a few films I’ve missed out for other, more personal reasons. Reasons which are much harder to explain, so here we are.

The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society

One reason, and one reason only. I’m really bored of films based on World War 2 at the moment, I’m suffering from WW2 film fatigue (or blitztigue). They’re not ugly enough. Period films are shot with an eye towards the beauty of elegance, which seems kind of inappropriate for a period of time where millions were massacred, particularly considering there are people today who support the people who did it (some people call them neo-nazi’s, I just call them pricks). I’m not saying there’s no beauty in ugliness, but I’m bored of every war film lately looking the same and attempting to create an air of nostalgia and warmth.

I Feel Pretty

I want to like Amy Schumer. I really do, she’s funny, and likeable, and with the right script is incredibly funny. But she’s also an alleged plagiarist, and when she’s in a bad film, it’s almost embarrassing, especially in a film where 80% of the jokes are “this person is above the average Hollywood weight, hahahahahahaha” (very much like Melissa McCarthy). But that didn’t have too much to do with me avoiding this film. I avoided it because the very concept annoys me. The whole “you just need self belief, then you’ll be pretty because you’ll have confidence” just seems a bit weird coming from an able-bodied blonde white woman with great complexion, she fulfils most of the definitions of classicly attractive by western standards. As someone who is genuinely ugly, with a bad face, it annoys the hell out of me that people say “you just need to believe in yourself”, as if being attractive to me isn’t as unobtainable as going to space on my BMX.

Show Dogs

I probably wasn’t going to see this anyway because, well, it looked kind of shit. But then I saw something else which confirmed my suspicions. It’s a typical kids movie about a talking dog that solves crime. To solve one he has to go undercover in a dog show, which requires having his genitals touched. So his human partner has to get him used to getting them touched, by training him to not react to people randomly grabbing his junk. Teaching him how to escape into your head whilst it happens. That’s……that’s grooming. It’s legitimately how child predators do it, a gymnastics coach who abused his students for years did it, telling them that he needed to do it to train them. It’s just kind of uncomfortable and weird. As Ruth Graham wrote for slate.com:

“The movie’s solution to Max’s discomfort with the inspection is not to empower him to escape it somehow; it’s to have him learn to check out mentally while he endures it, and to make no outward sign of his humiliation. It is not paranoid to say that this is a bad message for kids.”

I mean, yeah it got edited out after the first week or so, but it shouldn’t have been there in the first place. It’s like if McDonalds said “Our Chicken Nuggets no longer contain arsenic” and expecting me to still eat them. Now I know “it’s just movie”, but it’s a kids movie. And that’s where people get morals from, as it’s used as indicator for society as a whole to children. It’s where they get their ideas from about how the wider world works. You don’t think that’s true? Okay, what do you think would happen if in every single kids film from now on, there was a character called “Chris” who constantly shit his pants? Do you think when a child meets someone called Chris, they’re NOT going to bully him about shitting his pants, despite the fact he actually hasn’t, because that’s what movies have taught him they do?

Book Club

Because my watching this film could be seen as an indicator that I don’t despise Fifty Shades, and I can’t risk that.

So yeah that’s that. There are more I avoided but mainly for boring reasons, primarily a lot of “wooo, America and guns are awesome” films I’ve avoided like healthy food at a house party. Luckily there’s Hereditary released today, and I’m really looking forward to that as it looks unsettling as hell.

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Breaking In (2018)

I knew almost nothing about this film before seeing it, I hadn’t seen a trailer, or even a poster for it (yet I did see plenty of trailers for Entebbe at our local cinema, which would be fine if they were actually showing that film. As it is it’s like “We’re going to get you excited about this film you won’t see. Why’s piracy going up? I blame millennials and avocados”. I think a lot of you won’t know either so I’ll explain it. Essentially Gabrielle Union’s character has been locked out of her home by people who are trying to break into a safe in her (recently deceased) father’s home. The script does everything it can to make it tense, her children are locked in the home being held hostage, which ups the tension for her. But also to get into the safe the burglars had to cut off electricity, and after 90 minutes of that, the police are automatically called, which adds tension there. The script is so goddamn tense it’s almost genius. Sadly, the rest of the film didn’t add up. There’s no visual brilliance to it, it doesn’t seem, on a technical level, to be that impressive. A film like this should be an emotional rollercoaster, taking you on a wild ride. This is more like one of those old wooden rollercoasters, it’s steady, does its job, but it never really reaches the heights that other similar things do, so you feel it’s lacking somewhat. On the upside, it also doesn’t go as low as it could. There are moments where it seems like it’s going to go off the rails and crash horrifically, but it doesn’t, it stays on course and remains good. For example, the film is a female-focused action film, all “don’t underestimate mothers” etc. Near the end the dad arrives, and he arrives at such a moment that it seems like he’s going to save the day. The woman we’ve watched kick ass throughout, can only be saved by a man. But then he gets knocked out quite quickly and she has to save him.

Now’s the best time to mention the acting. The actors playing the bad guys are great Billy Burke completely fills the screen with his presence whenever he’s on. Levi Meaden is pretty great too, despite looking like what Gerard Way would look like if he was in a Green Day tribute band. The film definitely belongs to Gabrielle Union though. You never think “that actress can’t do this”, even when you feel it’s a bit weird that the character can do certain things with no training. To be honest, I did think it was going to end similar to The Drop, where it turns out she’s been a trained killer all this time. I felt certain that’s how it was going to end, as it explained a lot of the things she knew how to do, and I was really excited to see the actress do it as I feel she would have nailed it. Sadly that wasn’t the case, is a shame as I think it would have worked. It would have made it something different from just the standard plot which this has. That’s the thing that stops me loving it, it’s good, but almost everything has been done before. Also, the opening was needless.

Deadpool 2 (2018)

I remember a few weeks ago I saw reports from an early preview of this, and they were, well they were not kind. Actually, “scathing” would be a proper response. It got to the point where apparently the studio was making a few changes and reshoots. I’m not sure what, and how many changes they made but it proves one of two (completely contradictory things). Either:

  • The studio knows what they’re doing and made the right changes to fix it.

Or

  • The early reports were all wrong.

There’s no way THIS was the film that was hated. If you liked the first film, you’ll like this. It’s like the first one, but a lot more. It’s funnier, more brutal, a lot more meta, and has a much better story. Let’s tackle those subjects one by one.

Funnier

This might be due to the way I saw it. I saw the first one twice at the cinema, both times it wasn’t really that busy. As such you couldn’t judge how funny it was, you could only judge how funny I personally found it. This was different, it was the first screening so the screen was almost completely full. As such when jokes hit, you know about it as it feels like the entire room is laughing with you (as opposed to laughing at you, which is not as fun). The laughs are not only better, but there’s a lot more of them. They come quick and come often, like a pervert in the lingerie section of M&S. It’s almost Airplane levels of “jokes per minute” for most the film. With one MAJOR exception. Towards the end, there’s a 2-3 minute section with zero laughs. I know it doesn’t sound long, but it is, if you don’t believe me, stick your hand in boiling water for 3 minutes. That 3 minutes is REALLY good too, full of so much emotion that it makes up for almost the complete lack of nuance in the first one.

More brutal

The vultures started circling for this film when it was announced that Tim Miller, the director of the first film, wasn’t coming back due to creative differences. As such people wondered whether the second one would, or even could, be as good as the first one. Luckily they got David Leitch, best known for John Wick and Atomic Blonde. I do like Tim Miller, but his style was very video-gamey, the film didn’t really look “real”, so even when horrific injuries occurred on screen, it didn’t really have the same impact it should have done. Leitch is the complete opposite, just like the aforementioned Blonde and Wick, you feel the hits. When people got hit, you could hear people in the audience wince with pain. This means the fights and action scenes seem like they have consequences. Also, the violence means they can redeem a previously laughed at character. Last time we saw this character he was basically a joke played by a former footballer, this time he tears Deadpool in half and threatens to turn Colossus into a cock ring.

More Meta (Spoilers)

If you plan on seeing the film, close your eyes now, and open them when I tell you. Done it? Good. Those idiots, they won’t able to read when I tell them to open their eyes those gullible fools. They’ll be walking around with their eyes closed forever, they’re going to walk into traffic and possibly die. Oh God, what have I done? Anyway, spoilers. The mid credit sequence for this features Deadpool killing the Deadpool from X:Men Origin Wolverine in a remade scene from that film, and then killing Ryan Reynolds as he reads The Green Lantern script. It also features a cameo from most of the X-men, in the background. There’s also a scene where they say “and if we do this, there won’t be a third act”. It’s deliciously meta and brilliant, I love it.

Better story.

Judging from the trailer, what do you think this film is about? You’re wrong. The trailer only really covers half the film, the final half takes it in such an unexpected direction, and one you didn’t expect, but makes a lot of sense. Criticism of the first one was that the story and the villains were lacking, definitely not the case here. The story is, whilst not exactly To Kill A Mockingbird, is multi-layered and not exactly something you can call rushed or lazy. It also has genuine emotion, like, an actual tear-causing emotional scene, It also has the first (that I can think of) openly gay relationship in mainstream superhero cinema.

The downsides: there’s quite a lot you feel could be cut. Large amounts of fluff, but it’s incredibly funny fluff, so it works. There are moments where you feel like the writers themselves have forgotten small parts of the story. Also, it has to be said, they could have cut TJ Miller. Not only they could, they SHOULD have cut TJ Miller. The sexual assault allegations are one thing. You could argue that someone shouldn’t lose their job over unproven allegations, no matter how heinous (despite the fact that this seemed to have multiple witnesses). But then he called in a fake bomb threat to get back at a random woman on the train. His scenes could have been replaced with someone else easily enough, and it’s a black mark against the film that it didn’t.

But despite that, I highly recommend this film if you enjoyed the first one. It’s like the first one, but turned up to 11.

 

Tully (2018)

I had no idea what this film was about. I hadn’t even seen a poster. I assume a lot of you will be in the same boat so here goes: it’s about a couple who have just welcomed their third child (one of whom has an unmentioned disorder similar to autism, for drama) into the world and the mother is knackered, so they hire a night nanny so she can get some sleep. The night nanny is a young, confident go-getter who speaks slightly pretentiously (think Juno, and not just because Diablo Cody wrote both) and teaches the mother the real meaning of……sleep? I don’t know. I get it, a lot of people are going to like this film, personally, I didn’t. It’s not that it wasn’t a good film, it’s just such a personal story, but not one that engaged me personally. As such the things I would otherwise not mind, suddenly became huge problems for me. The adults who were speaking like pretentious movie teenagers just seemed really annoying and unrealistic. The one-scene characters who were just there to create conflict just made me think it was a waste of time. Actually, there’s a lot of waste in here. Infinity War was long, but it made those minutes count, almost every scene was needed. I can’t think of many scenes from that film where if you didn’t take them out, it wouldn’t make the film slightly less incoherent either in terms of story or character building. This is the opposite, it’s a lot shorter, but there’s more waste. In fact, I’d say there’s more waste than content. There are so many scenes here where if you cut them, it wouldn’t affect the movie at all, they’re that inconsequential, which, for a film that’s only just over 90 minutes long, is a terrible indicator. It’s the sign of screenwriting fluff (and trust me, if there’s anybody who knows about screenwriting fluff, it’s me, it’s my bread and butter, and black pudding, and sausages, and beans, and *checks word count* bacon, and eggs, and tomatoes and now I’m hungry).

Also the ending. It’s not quite as bad as Truth Or Dare, but it’s the kind of ending which you’ll either love or hate, I was not a fan. Mainly because I don’t think it earned it. It tries to be clever with a twist, but it just feels kind of cheap and doesn’t even provide a pleasing “aha!” scene. THAT’S what makes a great twist ending, that specific moment where a character in the film, and thereby the audience pieces it all together. Think of that scene in The Usual Suspects where you finally find out who it is, or the “where do you think we are?” scene from Scrubs. The entire ending could be summed up in that one moment, that’s the “wham” scene, where you marvel at the brilliance of it all. This doesn’t really do that, it just provides lots of little things in quick succession, so it means we don’t have that glorious memorable moment, to the point where I’m not entirely sure everybody in the screen I was in got what happened. Actually, I know they didn’t, as I overheard people’s discussions as they were leaving.

There’s no way to discuss this without actually saying what the ending is so here goes (spoiler warning): the night nanny she hired doesn’t exist and is a figment of the main character’s imagination, she’s imagining a younger version of her. It’s narratively unsatisfying and asks more questions than it answers. Specifically; what happened to the actual nanny then? It wasn’t ordered by her, her brother said he’ll pay for it and get it organised etc. It’s mentioned to him that they now have a night nanny, and he doesn’t respond “Well let me know the costs and I’ll cover it”, or “so when you order one it’s fine yet you refuse mine? What the fuck?” Or even “Where from?”. It’s just kind of frustrating. Which is a shame as there are some things to like in this, Charlize Theron is outstanding as always, she just throws herself into every character and it’s superb to see. Some of the dialogue will definitely cause a chuckle (although there are moments where the dialogue is written in a way that you’re reminded it’s a movie because it seems so fake), and the soundtrack is pretty damn cool as well. It’s just a shame it never really clicked for me. I think that’s the main flaw, I didn’t personally click with it, and I felt I should have. Which meant its flaws annoyed me more than it should, and the good things didn’t hit as much as they should.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018) (Spoilers Version)

Well I said I was going to put spoilers in this, so here goes:

Bruce Willis was dead all the time

Kevin Spacey is Keyser Soze

Clark Kent is Superman.

Rear-spoiler-1024x682

Oh, I suppose I should talk about the spoilers in this film. I have quite a bit to discuss about this, the ending in particular, so I had to do a different blog for it. It would be unfair to spoil the film for those who hadn’t seen it, but there were certain things I couldn’t discuss without spoiling the ending. I think that’s kind of cool though, spoilers mean something again. Because the studio put a lot of importance on not letting the ending go, it meant that people who watched it put that importance on too, plots matter again. I like that.

But this specific ending? Holy f*ck. In case you haven’t seen it here it is: pretty much everyone dies. Spiderman, Black Panther, Star Lord, Drax, Groot, Samuel L Jackson, all dead. Which is kind of odd considering that pretty much all of them have been announced for sequels. This brings up my first point; as emotional as the ending was, it won’t last. It won’t be a film that in years to come you’ll think of as emotionally devastating films. The reason for this; the ending won’t stick. It can’t stick, they’ve announced a Spider-man sequel for one. So as emotionally crushing as the deaths were, everybody knows they’ll be back. Look at articles about it, they’re not discussing “oh no, how will the surviving heroes cope with such horror?”, they’re saying “which of these will stay dead?”, which sucks. The default setting in films should be when a character dies, they stay dead, coming back from the dead should be the exception, not the expected norm. So it’s hard to feel too emotional about this, as there’s a part of you that thinks “meh, they’ll be back” or “I’ll save my emotion for when I get to the next movie and see what happens”. I mean, yeah, I am intrigued as hell as to how they’re going to do it. Personally, I think it will have something to do with Thanos using the time stone to rewind time and kill Vision. Have a feeling that once someone can get hold of that they can use it to rewind back to the rewind (if that makes sense). This means the ones who died before that ((Gamora, Loki (seriously for the love of all that is good kill Loki and keep him dead. He’s a good character but is emblematic of the “no deaths count” thing MCU has)) will stay dead, whereas those that died after the snap (Spider-man, Bucky, Brooklyn 99) will come back.

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It is coming back, right?

No idea who’s gonna do that though, I’m guessing Captain Marvel will have something to do with it but can’t say for certain as I don’t know what her powers are as I’m not too familiar with the character. Maybe it won’t be the heroes, maybe it will be the scientists, we have no idea if Selvig is still alive, if he is given the technology seen in both Ant-Man and Black Panther he could create something great. That’s if he’s still alive though. That’s something I have a problem with in this, outside of Nick Fury (and not-Robin from HIMYM), all the deaths were major characters from this film. Marvel has had A LOT of side characters in their films, did any of them die? Will we ever find out? How was this received by people who had ABSOLUTELY no idea what happened? Random people just going about their day etc when their friend suddenly disappears? I guarantee people thought it was the rapture or something. But we don’t know, because we didn’t see it from a civilian standpoint, we got a small insight with the post-credits thing where cars and planes crashed, but nothing that shows their pure visceral terror. How much more impactful would it have been if we had a character hadn’t seen in years come back for a random scene, only to die? I have a slight feeling that we’ll see that next time we see Hawkeye, that his family all disappear and he goes on a vengeful warpath. I guess what I’m basically asking in all of this is this; is Ned okay? That’s all I want to know.

 

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We love Ned

 

Avengers: Infinity War (2018) (Spoiler-Free Version)

A few years ago I saw a film called Men, Women & Children. A film that had moments of okayness but failed to maintain even that. The main reason for this was it had too many characters and it couldn’t focus on all of them, as such some felt underdeveloped and the time spent with them felt utterly pointless. There was concern that the same would happen with this. This had a lot of characters, and all of them were somebody’s favourite (yes, even Thor), so if you didn’t do them properly then you’re going to annoy a lot of people, and in the age of social media, especially with such a highly anticipated film, the slightest inkling of dissatisfaction and they’d be nerd-rage akin to if you said “maybe not everybody has to be white”. As it is, this balances the characters pretty well. Whilst the characters are split into separate groups, there’s no real “core” group. None of them seem more plot-focused than the others. That being said it’s not entirely equal. It seems like the Guardians characters have a lot more to do within their groups than the others. Surprised there’s not really any new characters in it, I mean, there’s an allusion to one at the end but the only new people are the villains. This is slightly odd as it means that these are the only ones in the entire universe. Where was Stallone etc from Guardians Of The Galaxy 2? You’d think they’d have heard of Thanos’s plan and tried to stop it. Or anybody from Agents Of Shield (is that still going? I got incredibly bored by it quite quickly so stopped watching). It’s going to be incredibly difficult to introduce new characters after this, as the first question anybody will ask is “where the fuck were you when this happened?” Before it’s been mostly localised destruction, but maybe with the potential of worse things happening later. This was half of existence being threatened with extinction. There should have been a lot more people.

I mean, yeah that would have meant the film would be like seventy hundred hours long. But even if you just mentioned “earth has been closed off to visitors” to explain others not being there it would be better. Don’t get me wrong, I did love this film. The character interactions were fantastic (although still disappointed nobody said “no shit, Sherlock” when Doctor Strange and Iron Man shared a scene). It was great that the established groups got split up and we got characters sharing scenes who had never interacted before. On the downside, this causes a problem for any future films. The same problem that hit the MCU post-Avengers. From now on whenever a character has a solo film you’ll be wondering why nobody else is helping. If any other Iron Man films happen in the future then he has space-travelling assistance to come help him.

Has to be said that the fact that this film works, and works brilliantly is a true testament to the skill involved. The script is incredibly tight and focused, barely any fluff at all, which considering how long it is is quite impressive. It looks great, the scenes on Titan, in particular, look stunning, The setpiece in Wakanda, whilst not exactly disappointing, isn’t as stunning to look at as you feel it could be. And the music is still a bit of a letdown. Marvel doesn’t really have a great track record when it comes to original music (Black Panther being the obvious exception), they have that one piece of Avengers music they use, but every time I try to think of that I get the Harry Potter music in my head. Even the Saw franchise had a recognisable theme they used as shorthand for “shit’s about to go down”.The power of good music (and not just in a “using established songs) way) is underappreciated in modern cinema but could work wonders. If MCU had character themes then the introductions would be a lot better, imagine if you see a character in the darkness, you have no idea who they are but then a familiar theme plays, exciting you before you even see them.

So yeah, if you’ve liked these films, you really need to see this, but I can’t imagine you enjoying this if you haven’t seen the others. This is not the film you watch to introduce you to the MCU, you’ll be completely lost. So, see this, but see the others first. Will be posting a second review of this later on in the week, specifically focusing on the ending. So look out for that over the weekend.

Truth Or Dare (2018)

The ending to this film is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen, and I once witnessed a guy fall over trying to kick a pigeon.

The ending to this film is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen, and I once witnessed a guy try to start a fight with a bus. Not the people on the bus, the bus itself.

The ending to this film is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen myself run this joke into the ground long after it stopped being funny

So yeah, I was not a fan of the ending. That’s the thing with horror, as a genre you really need to nail the ending otherwise it clouds the entire experience of the film. A lot of my hatred for both The Gallows and Unfriended is based around how poorly they executed the ending, both of them had great potential endings, but they then kept going. It’s hard to close a horror movie though, you need people to leave being scared, but you have to balance that with providing narrative closure, and usually, it’s the closure that suffers through the use of last-second jump scares and “the killer is still alive”, and if the ending doesn’t provide a satisfactory closure then it can feel like the entire film was a massive waste of time, like the entire thing was a prequel to a film that might not even happen. Side note: if you’re a fan of terrible movie endings, check out The Devil Inside, bad endings are one thing, but that film doesn’t even have an ending, it just stops and tells you to check out the website. So as you can tell, I’ve seen a lot of bad endings in films, especially horror, but rarely have I seen a film fuck up the closing stretch so badly. Part of me wants to spoil it so I can talk about it more, but part of me also thinks you need to see it so you can realise how badly they messed it up. The characters were mostly unlikeable to begin with, and the end of the film is basically them potentially causing the death of every single person on the planet, and it’s played off like this was the right and moral thing to do.

I mean, it wasn’t exactly the greatest film before that. As I said before, the characters were almost completely detestable and annoying, and because of the 15 rating their deaths aren’t even as satisfying as they could be. They’re not inventive enough either, the Final Destination series was great at the “seemingly co-incidental deaths” set pieces, that kind of approach would be great here as a way to kill people (people die if they refuse to do the dare, or if they lie). The first time we see this is pretty unique, a guy pulls out of his dare, and slips on a pool ball, breaking his neck. But even this shows a few problems which plague the rest of the film. For one thing, the person affected has a weird smile which I think is supposed to be creepy, but just looks like a weird snapchat filter. This makes it obvious they are not in control of their actions, which make it not as fun, it would be a lot more fun if they died as themselves due to the universe being set up that way just in case they failed, as it is it just means they get possessed and commit suicide, and nobody notices the physically impossible smile on their face and weird tone in their voice.

It’s not all bad though, it does have some neat ideas, albeit they don’t really do anything with those ideas. It occasionally seems like a satire about the notion of internet fame/infamy and the fine line between the two, but it’s so underdeveloped I’m not entirely sure it’s deliberate. One of the subplots about a homosexual character being scared to come out to his strict father also shows promise, but is never really realised. Imagine if when his truth was “come out to your father”, that even with the threat of death he still couldn’t do it? And then the father found out why he died and is forever haunted by his behaviour towards his son in the past. That would make it a lot more powerful, haunting and depressing.

One last thing, the performances. Oh my science, the performances. Horror has a (deserved) reputation for occasionally having (how can I put this diplomatically?), let’s say, less than stellar performances from actors, all really obvious fake screams and performances which somehow are a mix of overacting and underacting. And this film? The performances in this………are really fucking good. Hayden Szeto (from the incredibly underknown Edge Of Seventeen) is all kinds of great in this, giving his character the emotional depth and nuance that the script doesn’t. Lucy Hale plays her character like a slightly broken bird, and it works. Landon Liboiron deserves to be the smug asshole villain in a spy movie. There’s not really a weak link in the performances here, a magnificent ensemble cast who are giving it there all, it’s just a shame the script didn’t.

Rampage (2018)

I mentioned in my Tomb Raider review (available here) that that film is a video game movie with the emphasis on the “movie” part. This is the opposite, this is like watching a playthrough on youtube of a game. It’s just sheer balls to the wall fun. This is not a smart movie, and it’s not a movie you need to watch again and again, analysing every frame. But whilst it’s not something you NEED to see again, it is something you’ll WANT to see again, late at night, when you’ve had a bad day and just need something to distract you from the unrelenting horror of modern life.

The cast all know this as well, none of them seem to be taking it seriously, and it’s a much better film for it. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, in particular, seems to be having the time of his life, giving his character a southern drawl and carrying himself in the most entertaining way possible. Let’s face it though, you’re not here to see him be entertaining as hell, you’re here to see CGI monsters destroy shit. And you’re in luck, as the closing third of this is just chaos upon chaos, the kind which last years Geostorm could have used. Surprisingly, the CGI holds up remarkably well. There are one or two brief moments where it looks a bit cartoon-like but other than that they’ve done a great job with making it all seem real. It’s also, really, really funny, having multiple laugh-out-loud moments throughout. Now I’ll admit the laughs aren’t exactly high-brow, but they’re incredibly effective. Who’d have thought a monkey making crude hand gestures would be so funny?

It’s not all good though. The villains are basically as substantial and necessary as the pop tarts one of them eats (although the actors playing them, again, do remarkably well). It’s a shame as I feel they’re just a few scenes away from being entertaining as hell, but they’re just not given enough to do to justify you remembering who they are. There are also three characters introduced at the beginning who disappear after the first act, which is just weird as they’re all introduced with character traits and personalities that could have justified them being there throughout. They’re built up so well and then just disappear. I’m guessing there’s deleted scenes of them somewhere but at the moment it just seems a bit weird, like the scriptwriter just forgot to delete them in his second draft.

It’s also not helped by its rating. It needed to be slightly more visceral. Now I’m not asking for 90 minutes of decapitations and torture porn, but there are some moments where they cut away slightly too early, or have something in the background out of focus that could have looked great in focus. Although you can have great violence in a PG film, a good example of this was The 5th Wave, which featured someone being knocked over by a giant wave. Now instead of having them just knocked off a balcony, it had them knocked off, and their back hit against a railing on the way down. It made it feel more real and painful. This film also has the “you mother f-explosion” thing which WAY too many films have lately and it’s annoying. Just say “fuck”.

So in summary: don’t go out of your way to see it, but do see it if you can. Incredibly fun and joyous. Kind of like Jumanji. And The Rock is hilarious in it, kind of like Jumanji. Actually, this is a lot like Jumanji, only slightly less so.

Ghost Stories (2017)

A great film. Really, really good. One of the best ghost stories I can remember. I see ghost stories as different from horror. There’s a different air to them really when they’re done well. Horror is a genre, ghost stories are a plot device and a method of utilising that genre (much like superheroes). Of course, because ghosts are heavily linked to death they are often horror movies. But really they can be thrillers, romance, animated kids film, buddy cop, anything really. I mean, I guess technically this is a horror, but I don’t count it as one. Horror is visceral, this is more, I don’t know, chilling, I guess is the right word. You’re not necessarily scared, but there’s a chill that permeates every core of your being throughout, the feeling that everything isn’t quite “right”. This is the closest I’ve felt to reading a scary book, the feeling of being completely trapped in that world and unable to put it down. It genuinely reminded me of reading ghost stories in the car on the way back from my grandparents back in the day.  That’s the kind of atmosphere this film has, an almost nostalgic feel, but at the same time being completely modern. It’s hard to explain, but it just has the feeling of reading a ghost story by torchlight under the bed covers in the freezing cold. That feeling of terror, knowing that you shouldn’t continue with the story but you absolutely have to. That’s down to both quality directing (although the make-up could have been better. The effects generally were really good, but the practical make-up could have been better), and the writing. But none of this would matter if it wasn’t for the performances.

The performances in this are great. Not a single weak link. Alex Lawther continues being a sadly undiscovered gem of British talent, Andy Nyman is a confident lead who plays his character perfectly, and Martin Freeman is, well, he was Martin Freeman. I was surprised by Paul Whitehouse though. I’m mainly familiar with him through his comedy work, but his performance in this was a true revelation. He plays him as the typical “Jack the lad” type, full of macho bravado, who is obviously scared shitless, trying to maintain his masculinity whilst terror haunts his brain. It brings to mind a soldier coming to terms with seeing a massacre. Honestly, not the best performance I’ve seen this year, but without a doubt one of the most impressive.

I think part of my love for this film is down to the narrative structure they use. Anthology films are deeply underappreciated, when they’re done right they provide an experience like no other. They allow you to not only tell the stories themselves, but a singular story that runs throughout the thread of the rest of them, it allows the audience to spot connecting themes and events, even things like colours repeating, and seeing how they all link together. When they’re done well the ending makes you think “that was GENIUS!”, but when they’re done badly it can make you feel like you’ve wasted your time.

For this? It works. The connections are sometimes subtle, sometimes not. But when you get to the end and see the cause and how it all links together you’re impressed. The ending (which I won’t spoil here) improves the entire film. Ordinarily, the ending they give here would be a massive let down, but here it’s SO well set up that you love it. It’s given enough hints so that it wasn’t immediately obvious, but once you know you realise it’s really the only way it could end. And it is one hell of an ending, reality completely breaks down into insanity and brilliance and magic and amazement and FUUUUCK just see this film. Then see it again to catch the foreshadowing.

A Quiet Place (2018)

Words alone do not do justice to this film. A true game-changer in terms of horror. The typical approach to directing horror films is “quiet, intense music, quiet, LOUD, OH SO LOUD”, replacing genuine terror with jump scares. Which are fine, they scare you during the film, but they don’t completely mess you up and fill you with dread. This film shows the importance of sound in horror, actually, screw that, it’s the importance of sound in cinema in general. It’s a great showcase of the power of cinema, not in a “this film will emotionally devastate you for days” way, but in that it changes the way you watch films. The disadvantages of going to the cinema to watch films normally involve other people: they make too much noise talking or eating or (when I went to see Hunger Games) getting drunk, falling asleep and snoring, then getting annoyed at the cinema staff that they didn’t pause or rewind the film for you (if you think that’s a reasonable request to make: go fuck yourself). This film is different, from my experience (and from what everyone who has seen) everyone in the cinema partakes in an unspoken (hah) pact; if you speak we will hurt you. I haven’t seen a film influence the audience this much since….well, ever. Nobody made a noise, and it was a busy screen. It was actually pretty great, as when there was a loud scene, you could just hear everyone finally open their food/cough etc. When I say “nobody” made a noise, there was a few coughs here or there but that can’t be helped, and if anything, that enhanced the experience. In 1952 John Cage composed the piece 4’33”. It’s basically: everyone in the orchestra puts their instruments down and do nothing for four minutes, thirty-three seconds. The intention is that it makes people listen to the background noise, to make them aware of the atmospheric sounds around this. This film does that, Because the audience noise was so sporadic, when it did happen it wasn’t annoying, it was scary. That’s what makes this film unique, every time you see it will be different because you’ll have to listen to the background noises around you. They’ll be people uncomfortable who’ll be adjusting their position, which creates noise that scares you, that exact scare will never happen again for any other screening, it’s unique to that one experience. It’s a horror movie with audience participation.

It’s not just the sound, the way the film looks is superb too. John Krasinski has done a GREAT job with this. Even more so considering it’s only his third film, and his first horror. Horror is a genre where you need a good director for it to work. Comedy you can kind of get away with it looking bland if the script is good, horror doesn’t allow that, you NEED someone who is a master behind the camera, and the fact he’s this accomplished is a great sign. With him and Jordan Peele doing work like this, this early in their careers, other directors will need to step up their game for their films to be considered great. Films will no longer be allowed to be as cartooney and silly looking as Saw 3D (holy hell that film looks cheap), which is great, as it means more greatness.

His performance was good too. Him and Emily Blunt share an obvious chemistry (can’t imagine why) which really sells their characters plight. He’s been in a lot of other films, but I think THIS is the one where he finally sheds his “Jim from The Office” status. The true star of the film though, is Millicent Simmonds. Not just because it’s good to have an actual deaf person playing a deaf character as opposed to someone with perfect hearing, but because she brings really subtle nuances to the character that just break your heart, and in doing so brings a non-verbal performance that’s up there with Sally Hawkins in The Shape Of Water. Also she made a few script alterations that improved it a lot. Adding “I’ve always loved you” to a father saying “I love you” to his daughter, which added SOOOOO much.

This is the best time to mention the sign language in this film. Due to both a character being deaf, and the fact the characters can’t make noise, sign language plays an important part in this film. And this is where the film does something which turns it from good to great; the characters all sign in their own unique way. Some characters sign very poetically and flow, showing the importance of beautiful language, whereas some sign very short and curt, like they’re in the military.

So yeah that’s it. Watch this film, then watch it again, and again. It has an absolutely heartbreaking moment in it, features an elderly character committing suicide over the death of his wife, and it kills a child before the opening credits, this is a film that truly gives absolutely zero shits about your comfort, and is all the better for it.