Captain Marvel (2019)

No, I did genuinely love this movie and it’s likely to be one of my favourites of the year. It was really funny, looked great (mostly) and I think Brie Larson is incredible. I thought I’d get that out the way because this blog will make it seem like I don’t. It was good, it was just……not what was needed right now. We are right before Endgame, one of the most anticipated films of the year. That film is supposedly the culmination of an overarching story which has run for about 10 years, the entire MCU has been building towards Endgame. The last two films before this ended with multiple character deaths, people are looking for that MOMENT to lead them into Endgame, and this completely fails at that. This is fine on its own, but as part of the MCU narrative, I don’t really feel it does its job. It doesn’t build up the next stage, like, at all. This film could have been made in Phase One and it wouldn’t really affect much. The biggest difference it would have made is it would have meant whenever there was a danger we would have thought “why doesn’t Fury just call Captain Marvel?” for most of the films, we now only have that in retrospect, which is…better? Should point out, one of the credits scenes DOES manage to get you slightly excited for Endgame, but the rest of the film doesn’t really do the same, at all.

Also, it turning out that Fury’s eye was lost to Goose the cat? “OMG who saw that coming?” Almost everybody. When I saw the trailer there were hundreds of comments under it saying the cat probably clawed out his eye. At this point, it would have been a surprise if that DIDN’T happen.

My other major issue with this film; the soundtrack. It’s like a 90’s jukebox. It’s good but it really could be much better. For one thing, some of the songs came out AFTER the film was set so it’s just a bit “ok, so this song doesn’t exist in this universe yet, so why is it being played?” and it’s obvious, because it’s “90’s” and that’s good enough. But if you’re going to do that, why restrict yourself like that? Personally what I would have LOVED them to do was to do a 90’s soundtrack, but have it be 90’s songs covered by female-led bands. At least then the soundtrack to a Marvel movie would be interesting (something which has only happened to 3 films so far, shockingly low).

A minor issue: some of the CGI was a bit dodgy. One scene, in particular, seems a bit cheap in terms of how they’ve layered it so badly that it looks fake. That just should not happen in a film this big and immediately puts it out of the running for the best looking film this year. It’s too big a mistake to ignore.

But the good: it was a lot of fun. Like, A LOT of fun. You will leave this film smiling and having enjoyed it. Also, Brie Larson is a badass, but anybody who saw Room already knows that. The de-ageing CGI also works BEAUTIFULLY and never manages to take you out of the movie (unlike some of the CGI of the character in flight, again, awful). The way it subverted expectations in terms of who the Kree are is also superb, I NEVER saw that coming, and in a genre often decried for being obvious, that says something.

So yeah, an enjoyable watch. But if you go into Endgame without watching this, you won’t really have much to catch up on.

Also, that No Doubt scene was WAY too unsubtle

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Fighting With My Family (2019)

I may be biased but I genuinely loved this film. I found it incredibly funny and heartwarming. It may be Rock-produced film focused on a huge American company, but a lot of the humour is incredibly British and snarky, Nick Frost’s character showing disdain at having to wear a t-shirt as it’s too posh for him etc.  Also, it’s probably the only film this year to have the line “dick me dead and bury me pregnant” in it (unless the sequel to Secret Life Of Pets takes a weird left turn).

This film is helped by the performances. Everyone really gets into their characters, to the point where you forget they’re playing characters. I’ve seen the person this film is based on, and followed their career for years, I still forgot it wasn’t actually her in the film. It’s weird as she doesn’t physically resemble her that much, but the way she performs as her completely convinces you (much like Michael Sheen in The Damned United).

I am aware of the background of this film, the happy ending of the film is one I remember watching and my knowledge actually makes me like the film slightly less. They discount a lot of the work she did prior to that and how highly regarded she was. This film makes it look like she was one step away from being fired and nobody knows who she is. When the truth is she was one of the most highly regarded performers for the developmental company, and the internet loved her and were begging for her to be called up to the main company. This is also shown in the ending. In this, she gets called up and is met with silence as nobody knows who she is. In reality, the reaction she got was loud as hell (caused partly by a large number of English fans who were in attendance) and everybody loved her. I see why they played with reality though, it makes the film much better and flows narratively more. I mean, “highly respected performer who is known as one of the best gets a promotion after impressing on shows for over a year” isn’t as compelling a narrative as “plucky underdog comes from nowhere”. The other thing that makes reality cheapen this film; a sex-tape joke. The person this film is based on suffered from a leak of a sex tape, which led to her suffering from suicidal thoughts and being hospitalised from stress-induced anorexia. So the fact a character refers to another as “sex-tape” because “he makes you famous” seems a bit….awkward. Especially since it SO easily could have been cut out, it wasn’t in the middle of an important piece of dialogue and NOTHING would have been lost if it got cut.

Also, she’s now retired. She suffered an injury which means if she wrestles again she risks paralysis. Although, again, I get why they didn’t put this in. It would have provided a real downer to what is essentially a feel-good movie. And this movie is feel-good. It’s charming, funny, and has the heart needed. That’s the forgotten part of a feel-good movie. If it’s just happy happy all the time the feel-good moments of it feel disingenuous. This film hits hard when it needs to. Yes, you see her succeed, but you see others fail. You see her rise, but you see the aftermath of someone else’s fall. You see her dream come true, but you see her brothers’ dream get torn away from him and he has to watch her succeed where he can’t.

The film also looks good. Apparently, Stephen Merchant was hand-picked to direct this, and I can’t see why. By which I mean I have no idea why he thought he’d be right for this, I mean, he is, completely. He nails every moment of this with a sleekness and brilliance. The way he cuts between a lot of the scenes is genius and I truly love it. I really hope he does more directing work as he’s REALLY good at it.

Happy Death Day 2 U (2019)

First off, applause for that title. It’s the best/worst sequel title ever and I love it. Now, I LOVED the first movie. Yeah it wasn’t that scary, but it had a great plot and terrific performances, was truly one of the highlights of 2017. I heard initial reports that this one was a disappointment. Personally I liked it. I get why people wouldn’t though. It’s quite different from the first one, with a different emphasis which takes it away from the horror genre somewhat. It also wastes what would be a great plot in the opening 10 minutes where another character is trapped in the same day. Although part of me thinks that that plot wouldn’t have worked because it would have been incredibly similar to the first one. The moment where they find that character from another universe is in this one and trying to kill them definitely would have worked and it’s a shame they didn’t use it. I mean, the plot they used was incredibly good. She wakes up on the same day as the first one, but in an alternate universe where things are different. One of the major differences is that her mum is now alive. This sets up a brilliant sub-plot of whether she wants to stay in the new universe or go back to the one she knows.

I’m under no delusions that this is a great film. But it is a film I love already. Jessica Rothe  is damn amazing in this, and Phi Vu handles his increased duties incredibly well, stepping up from a one-note character to a fully-fleshed out supporting character. Quite a few minor characters from the first movie have increased roles this time. I mean, yeah it’s not the same as the first one, but it works great as a companion piece. They don’t feel too separated, they feel like they belong together naturally. Like this wasn’t a sequel, but was the second part of the first one. Crucially it didn’t need to do this. When you watched the first one it felt like a whole movie, you left it with questions, but not questions that distracted you from how much you liked the film. Your thoughts weren’t “but why did x happen?” it was “I liked that”. So this film wasn’t needed, but you’ll be very glad it exists.

Hasn’t been my longest review, or my best. This is a film that has to be seen to be believed. It’s really weird and worth your watch; even if only for Jessica Rothe’s performance. And the music. And the editing. Editing in movies are like drums in music, I tend to only notice them when they’re really bad (There’s a scene in Bohemian Rhapsody in particular that’s a mess) or really good (this). The montage editing is superb, flows brilliantly and has a great rhythm to it. The emotion this film manages to bring to the table should be commended too. Has genuine tear-causing moments. Which in a film THIS funny is something special. So yeah, go see it, especially if you loved the first one.

Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

Do you have an interest in seeing this film? Then see it at the cinema. Trust me, this is a cinema film. You’ll get a lot more out of seeing this on a big screen than you will by sitting on your sofa watching it. This is spectacle cinema at it’s very best. And like most spectacle cinema, you do feel it’s lacking something though.

It’s not the performances, they’re all fantastic. All of them, and there’s a lot of them. I think it has so many characters as this film was made with an eye towards a sequel. I mean, with the ending this film has, it has to have a sequel otherwise the story will just be unfinished. Christoph Waltz actually seems charming and not-evil in this film, which I didn’t know he was capable of (off topic, if they do a remake of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, he’s Judge Doom). The star of the show is definitely Rosa Salazar, who is so damn impressive in this it’s hard to believe. The way they kind of animate her eyes is genius, a beautiful blend of reality and CGI which is an incredible use of the technology. It’s not being used to replace or create reality, but to work alongside it, which is a technique which always works better.

Now the downside; the big one is the plot is kind of generic. The romance sub-plot seems kind of forced. A lot of the dialogue is just explaining plot points and character motivations to the audience, some of which could have been done a lot more subtly. It’s tonally all over the place, going from a film that’s seemingly aimed at children, to a dog being slaughtered then having its blood used as war paint before saying “fuck mercy” and killing someone. It’s a 12A which features a character being chopped in half at the waist, not a robot, a human. I’m not sure if being chopped in half would kill a robot in this film as it’s incredibly inconsistent when it comes to things like that. Sometimes having a limb chopped off leads to them being severely weakened and makes them as good as dead, and sometimes they just walk it off like it doesn’t affect them. It makes the action scenes difficult to get invested in as after every hit you’re not sure how to react, did that cause immense damage, or does it not matter? You have no idea until AFTER each hit, there are no rules set to tell you which makes it incredibly frustrating.

I feel I need to mention the motorball sequences. They’re the action highlights of the film and make you want to see a film based around it (wait, that exists, it’s called Rollerball and the original is awesome), in fact, I would be genuinely surprised if there’s not a video game based on that sequence, and kind of disappointed.

So should you see it? I’d say yes. The visual world-building is top notch and film-making like this deserves to be rewarded. So go buy a ticket and see it at the cinema, even if you’re not blown away, I highly doubt you’ll regret it either.

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

This is one of the most critically acclaimed films I’ve seen so far this year. And I can see why; the performances are mesmerising, and the film looks beautiful. It’s an important tale of race and relationships. It just….it wasn’t for me. I found the story-telling too slow and fragmented. Things happen and then are forgotten about, 20 minute scenes cover what could take just 2 minutes, characters you think are going to be important end up appearing in one scene and then disappear.

It’s a shame as it is a wonderful film, you feel an entire universe in this film, every character seems to have a backstory you can’t wait to explore. It’s a fantastic slice of the characters life that we explore. It’s just narratively frustrating. Slice-of-life films are risky as they can end up lacking a definitive story. Some of them I do love (Ghost World in particular will always be a favourite), but some just kind of annoy me. This was in the second category. It’s mainly about someone in jail for a false rape allegation after he was framed by a racist cop (thank god THOSE aren’t a problem in America anymore). It feels like the story is building towards the trial, but that’s skipped over at the end and we go to about 3 years later. It’s a powerful ending as it illustrates how the system can just keep delaying trials to keep people incarcerated until they get frustrated and accept a plea bargain. It’s just a shame that it’s not done well; they give us this information by narration, and it doesn’t really feel natural. The film doesn’t really make us feel as frustrated at the system as it should to make that feel effective. It does it once or twice, but you never really get the sense that this is his only option.

I feel I need to mention the narration again. There’s waaaaay too much of it. The film doesn’t like silence or ambiguity, so if there’s a scene which would be silence and we have to actually think about what the characters motivations are, we get narration straight out telling us. It’s frustrating and doesn’t seem to mesh well with the overall aesthetic of the movie. Everything about this movie, from the story, to the look, to the name actors in small parts, just screams ARTHOUSE cinema, yet the needless narration makes it seem like it’s aimed at mass market. I suspect that’s not the case and it’s just the most effective way to get a lot of things from the book in. I just really wish they found another way.

This review has seemed overly negative I get that. But everything positive about is stuff you’ve already heard. I would recommend seeing this film, and I am glad I saw it, and I do know it was an absolute superb piece of film-making, it just wasn’t for me, and that’s okay. Everything is not for everyone, and that’s okay.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

No, Melissa McCarthy, we can’t forgive you for Tammy, or The Boss, or Happytime Murders, or, damn McCarthy, you’ve been in a LOT of bad films. I mean, also been in St. Vincent, and that film was fantastic. I do like McCarthy, but I don’t trust her. Like I will never go and see a film because she’s in it. She can be really good but occasionally falls into scripts which just seem incredibly lazy and one joke (that joke being: woman swears and is violent, HAH!”. Thankfully this is one of her good ones. Full of emotion, warmth, and great characters. This film has had so many awards thrown at it that it begins to feel like an assault. But it earns every single one. Not just McCarthy’s performance, but Richard E. Grant finally seems to be getting the mainstream attention he deserves with a beautifully broken performance. I really hope this leads to him becoming a household name. I mean, he is a known name among people who like films, but I don’t feel he’s yet at the “recognised by people who watch one or two films a year”, and he should be, he’s immensely talented (also, how great a horror movie villain would he make?).

The script is also brilliant. It’s about a woman knowingly making forgeries of letters by famous people. That doesn’t exactly sound fascinating, does it? It sounds boring as hell. It also sounds like it will be hard to make the main character likeable. This manages it though (but I think McCarthy’s performance is part of what makes the character likeable too), the story is incredibly riveting, but it does make one misstep. It’s not a problem with the film, but with the marketing, or maybe even the story itself. The trailer showed us how she got found out and investigated for fraud. This doesn’t happen until into the closing section, so it’s odd to watch a film about a plan and KNOW it doesn’t work. I mean, it is kind of fascinating in a way to watch with the knowledge that it all goes to shit, but it does take away from the drama somewhat.

I did like this film a lot, didn’t love it for some reason. Think it might have been because of the aforementioned lack of narrative surprise. It might have just been that the story itself felt inconsequential. I mean, it was incredibly charming and delightful to watch, and if it’s on BBC over Christmas I’ll give it a watch, but I don’t need to buy it. It deserved the plaudits though, without a shadow of a doubt. I must check out the book some time.