Swimming With Men (2018)

Yet again, a film which I knew absolutely nothing about. It is weird how I can see so many films at the cinema (37 so far this year) and yet there’s still a lot of films where I don’t see the trailer beforehand (11 so far I’ve gone into blind), it doesn’t say much for film marketing really does it? So, this film, it’s about someone who goes swimming, with men (oh my science that’s why it’s called that! That’s SO clever). It’s based on a true story about a group of middle-aged Swedish men who started a swim team. In a nice touch, they’re in the film, playing a Swedish swim team who in everything. I like that.

Of course it’s a low budget British film; but it’s very different from a lot of films like that. For starters, this isn’t about a group of elderly British people doing things, this is completely different; it’s about a group of middle-aged British people doing things.  There’s no way a major American company would finance this, and for good reason; a lot of people won’t like this. Some of the dialogue is quite bad, almost none of the actors will be known outside of this country, and it’s so slow paced it’s almost glacial. Plus, it’s a film about synchronised swimming, which isn’t exactly a major source of excitement for casual moviegoers (although it does provide some spectacular cinematography).

If you’re unsure about whether to watch it, the opening won’t change your mind. It’s a typical “middle-aged person is bored and thinks his wife is cheating on him” that you’ve seen MULTIPLE times before. Actually, there’s not much in here you haven’t seen before, outside of the swimming sections. But that’s where it shines. The swimmers are people who come together to escape their mundane lives, they don’t give any details of their private lives to each other, they just use it as an outlet for frustrations through teamwork and bonding. It’s actually a lot sweeter than I’m making it sound. It would be even sweeter if the film was a bit longer. If it was longer it would give some of the other characters more to do, as it is there are a few members of the team who you completely forget about, one of them is someone who never speaks, he speaks finally near the end in what is supposed to be a big moment, but in reality you’d have barely noticed him in the film and will completely forget about that being his character trait. This does make it sound like I disliked it, that’s wrong though. It was funny, incredibly heartwarming, and the characters that we did focus on were really well written in terms of their interactions with each other.

It’s also incredibly funny at times. But in a believable way. There was a lot of opportunities for silly slapstick but it admirably never takes them, instead going for character-based jokes and dialogue. Still not enough to forgive the criminal misuse of Jane Horrocks though.

I’d suggest seeing it if you can get in cheaply, otherwise, I’d wait for it to inevitably be on BBC over Christmas, and then watch it then.

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Uncle Drew (2018)

This film commits many cardinal sins, let’s list them before I get into the review:

  1. It’s based on an advert. I’m used to films based on a book, or a TV, or a party game, but an advert? FUCK that!
  2. Most of the cast are young people in old people prosthetics.
  3. It’s about basketball. A sport I have little to no interest in.

So really this review should be full of the kind of vitriol usually reserved for undercooked pastries. Yet……I liked it. Yes, a lot of the performances were so exaggerated and cringe-worthy that it made it hard to watch. Yes, the story seemed like it was all put together on the back of a cereal box, and not a big one, one of those travel boxes. Yes, there’s so much product placement it’s almost embarrassing. Yes, it feels it needs a 5-10 minute dance sequence in the middle of it. And yes, the traditional “a teams player gets injured mid-game and needs to be replaced” happens TWICE in the closing section and I’m still not entirely sure why (seemed to be just so can get a view of Shaq’s butt cheeks). But I liked it. It was funny as hell and incredibly heartwarming. It would have been so easy for this basketball movie to be an own goal, luckily it’s a real hole-in-one touchdown (I’m not great at sports metaphors). It knows just when (and importantly, how) to get to you emotionally, to the point where I was glad for the credits scenes as it gave me time to wipe my eyes dry after (no, you’re crying!).

The film rests entirely on Lil Rel Howery, best known as the friend from Get Out. He walks the line between outrageous comedy performance and reality performance brilliantly. If he was replaced by someone who leant too far the other way it would have ruined the entire film. Playing his role somewhat reminiscent of a less annoying Kevin Hart, he’s a great lead for this and should be commended. His character should too, well, the films approach to his character anyway. A lot of times in sports films when we see someone who is good at a sport it’s because they’re really good the first time they attempt it, or they show some skill for it early on. This makes it seem like being good at it is just a matter of genetics. This film shows the other way; it shows him young, not being brilliant the first time he picks up a ball, but he practices, and practices, and practices. It’s revolutionary for a film to show that, I don’t get why though, but I like that this film takes the time to do it.

 

So to sum up, I liked it, but I probably would have liked it more if I actually gave a crap about basketball as I would have appreciated the cameos more.

Tag (2018)

Summary:

A group of friends play tag for the month of May, every year.

This was a lot of fun. I’ll get that out of the way now. It’s just joyful, incredibly dumb entertainment. Mostly, and it’s that “mostly” which is a problem. For 90% of the time it’s brainless fun, but one that’s heartwarming in just the right places. But then at the end, it tries to get emotional, and it doesn’t really work. It just seems like an excuse for the film to try to “do” emotional, and it does not do it well. Speaking of things it doesn’t do well; the “miscarriage” joke just seems out of place. The film itself isn’t dark enough for that joke to really work. If it had moments of darkness throughout the film then that joke/sub-plot would have worked. It doesn’t really help that the character who does it isn’t really given much of a character really. She’s just seen as an extension of her partner. Kind of an issue with a lot of the female characters, to be honest, a lot of them feel really underdeveloped. There’s one character who’s introduced really early on, a reporter who is writing a story about the guys and their game. I won’t lie, there were entire scenes where I forgot/didn’t realise she was there. It was clever having her there as an audience surrogate but she didn’t really do anything. I mean, there was one scene which was played out as a series of interviews, just the one. They never do that again. Other things they don’t do: make the most of the premise. This film is fun, but it could be a LOT more fun. I feel it could have been more creative with its concept. It could have been an incredibly wacky caper of a group of people trying to outsmart each other. As it is it’s a group of people all trying to tag one person and getting violently hurt in the process, which makes the game seem less fun and fulfilling than the film says it is.

This review may make it sound like I hated it, I didn’t. It was very very funny. And the cast was great. People have said this is like a Hawkeye movie. But Jeremy Renner isn’t Hawkeye in this, he’s Rorsarch from Watchmen (a casting which would totally work btw). He knows what kind of film this is, and plays his part brilliantly. As do the others, Jon Hamm is great too, hamm-ing it up throughout (see what I did there?). Isla Fisher continues to be just, just great. But the real star is Hannibal Buress, who doesn’t necessarily have the best lines in the script but makes them the best lines with his delivery. The biggest complaint with the cast is it should have been bigger. This is based on a real-life story, but that involves about 10 people, this was cut down so the story would be easier to follow. I wish they didn’t do that. If they made it a larger cast it would have been a lot more fun, and the film would focus on the game, as opposed to the characters. I miss ensemble cast comedies. You know, things like It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and their ilk. We have ensemble action films (The oceans series, even the Avengers to some extent), but lack those old-style madcap ensemble cast comedies. The wacky ones where it’s just non-stop comedy throughout. It’s a shame as it would have been perfect for this, it would have made it something that stood out, would have been less……I guess, “disposable” is the right word. There’s not enough about this film to make it stand out. To be honest, throughout this I was thinking “okay, so it’s a film about adults playing games?” and for some reason, it kept bringing to mind the far superior Game Night. At least if it was an ensemble cast then it would have a reason for the number of unresolved plotlines it has and it would have stood out on its own. I know by the end of the year I will completely forget that this film exists, let alone that I saw it.

But should you see it? I’d say yes. It’s a fun way to pass the time, and it has a superbly diverse soundtrack. It’s just……it should be better