Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (2019)

Very exciting today as I’ve got a guest reviewer. For the first time ever we have a star of the movie here to talk about it. So, here we go:

Pika, pika. Pika pika pika pika? Pika, pika, pika pika pika (pika pika, pika pika pika). Pika pika! Pika, pika pika pika? Pika, pika pika pika pika. Pika pika, pika, pika pika pika. Pika pika? PIKA! Pika pika pika! Pika!

God damn it Pikachu you’re the fucking worst. Guess I’ll have to do it. This film is weird, tonally it’s a complete mess. You’ve seen the trailer, so you’re probably expecting a silly lighthearted movie that makes you happy and warm inside. That’s definitely not the case here, this is tonally incredibly dark at times. The film starts with a kid finding out his dad died in a car crash, then moves on to themes such as abandonment, slavery, and of course a scene where the heroes flat-out torture someone. It’s not as funny as you’d expect it to be, there are long sections with no humour in them at all, but that doesn’t lessen the film in any way. When it veers into comedy it does so naturally and veers into emotional moments well too. It’s not going crazily from one extreme to the other like a drunk driver, it’s slowly changing lanes so subtly that sometimes you don’t realise. Some things that don’t work quite so well; the human characters are a bit flat, and the villain reveal is incredibly obvious from anybody who has seen a film before.

On the upside, the world-building has to be commended. There are a few moments where you think “that’s definitely London, I recognise that building”, but mostly the city feels real, it feels like a place people actually live with a vibrant history. So I’ve talked about the look of the city, now how about the pokemon? Anybody who has seen the Sonic trailer can see that translating something from a video game into real life can go incredibly wrong. While we’re on the subject here’s my thoughts on the sonic trailer: it looks like it was made for kids from the 90’s, but forgot that those kids are now adults. So the core audience seems to be adults people who were in comas for 20 years, and time travellers. So with that in mind how does this look? In a word: phenomenal. In a sound effect: *sharp intake of breath*. They look amazing, they look so good that sometimes you don’t notice them. There are scenes with a lot of them in the background and they are so well made that you don’t realise they’re there. That’s this films greatest achievement, not the performances (which with one or two exceptions are kind of just “there”), not the story (which wastes so much time on pointless things), and not the emotion it makes you feel, the greatest achievement is it feels incredibly real. And that’s the biggest worry for something like this. It really works, the visual style, the pokemon in the world, visually it’s incredible, and cannot be faulted for that. This may not be the best film in the world, but I get the feeling it’s going to influence something phenomenal (but not Sonic The Fucking Hedgehog).

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Greta (2019)

This film is deeply flawed. Features a character who is constantly getting phone calls from someone, and she never thinks to block the number. And when she tells the police she’s being stalked by someone, they point out it’s perfectly legal to stand in the street outside a restaurant where she works as it’s public property. One, this seems wrong, and I really hope it is, if that’s true then the world is a terrible place (but, restraining orders do exist, right?). But also, that time would have been a good point to mention to the police all the bags she found at the woman’s house, all with names on which if investigated would have been discovered to have belonged to missing people. That lone would have been enough to warrant an investigation. Also, we later find out that she’s not supposed to be in the country due to medical abuse, the police would definitely have discovered that and acted on it, thus stopping the entire plot. It’s an issue when a film is based on a kind of flawed premise. But you know what? I didn’t care, I really liked this film.

I knew nothing about this film going in. Well, I knew kind of what it was about, and one of the people in it. Other than that, nothing, I went in with no preconceptions. I think that was a good thing, I didn’t go in expecting tenseness from the off. Although I’m not sure that would have mattered because this started relatively quickly. Don’t get me wrong, the story itself was still slow moving, but it kicked off almost immediately. Now when I say it was slow, I mean it. The plot was almost glacial but in a good way. Like it was slow moving, but it was always moving forward. There wasn’t much time wasted, which was nice. What wasn’t nice was this film, there’s one moment involving a cookie cutter which I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to forget, was one hell of a scene that woke the audience up. But even before that the film has a great sense of tension that never lets up, you’re on tenterhooks for almost the entire time and it’s brilliant. Yes, there’s a twist near the end which is way too obvious to really be counted as a twist, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless. There’s also a great moment of realisation for the audience. If you want to avoid spoilers, stop reading now as I have to spoil it. There’s a moment early on in the film where there’s a loud banging behind a wall, Greta (the kind of evil woman in this) explains it’s just builders next door, and she bangs on the wall to shut them up. Later on in the film Chloe Grace Moretz’s character is behind that wall and starts banging on it, and we realise, as an audience, what exactly was happening earlier. When Greta was planning to kidnap Moretz’s character, she already had a victim in the house who was listening to the whole thing but unable to do anything to stop it. Imagine that from her point of view, terrifying. That moment is just subtle enough to work, and it’s glorious.

Know what else is glorious? Isabelle Huppert, I haven’t seen her in anything before but she’d make a great Bond villain. Actually, she’d be great in a horror film too. I cannot praise her performance enough. The film is almost worth seeing based on it alone, but you should go see it anyway.

Red Joan (2019)

I was genuinely intrigued by this movie, a movie about an elderly woman turned out to be selling state secrets during the war? That sounds interesting as hell. And it’s based on a true story? Ok, I’m sold, this is going to be great.

It’s not. For starters, Judi Dench is barely in it, almost all of her scenes are in the trailer. It’s also VERY loosely based on a true story, there was a woman who sold state secrets to the Russians, and that’s pretty much it. Her motivations were to even the playing field etc. As she said:

“I did what I did, not to make money, but to help prevent the defeat of a new system which had, at great cost, given ordinary people food and fares which they could afford, a good education and a health service.”

She says something similar in the film too, but it’s not really shown to be the case. We don’t see much of her moral conflict causing her to spy. So what does cause it?

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Am I being too subtle? I’ll try again.

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Penis, it was for penis. No moral complications, it was love and lust that did it. And I find that disappointing. They’ve reduced a complex and interesting character to “well she was but a mere woman, defined entirely by her relationships with men”. Her motivations are not her own, but the men around her. There’s a moment where she watches in horror at Hiroshima, but it’s not enough to distract from the fact that the entire motivation for her character is her love for someone. And sadly the film isn’t good enough to make you buy into any of the romances, they all seem a bit too easy, a bit too Hollywood. And the trouble is is that the film is based entirely around the relationships, and since you don’t buy into those, you don’t buy into the film as a whole. The most interesting parts are the parts set in the modern day where Judi Dench is explaining herself to her son. That section has genuine emotion and heart, and takes up about 10 minutes of the film total. That’s what the film should be about, I didn’t particularly care about what she did, I want to know how it affects her now. All the rest just seems like parenthesis on the sentences this story is telling. On the plus side, you can’t argue with the pacing of the opening section, it gets STRAIGHT into what you came to see, so that should be commended. On the downside…..almost everything else. There’s a great story to be told about Melita Norwood, but this doesn’t come close to being it.

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

So, that’s it, as close to a season finale the MCU has had yet, this film genuinely feels like closure for a lot of the characters. A fitting closure too, it completes a lot of story arcs which have been running since 2008. Whilst there’s been a few missteps along the way it’s generally accepted that the films have been of high quality and with interacting storylines to keep you invested (even if they weren’t as carefully crafted as they needed to be at times, with major plot holes and continuity errors between separate films). I did love this film, I really enjoyed it, and didn’t feel it outstayed its welcome (which considering it is 3 hours long, really says something). It deserves the praise it’s getting, but I still can’t help but feel slightly disappointed, not with what happened, but with now can’t happen. Like I wish they pushed the Civil War storyline further, as it is it never really felt like a proper division between two sets, it always felt temporary and outside of Civil War itself, kind of small. It never had that urge of paranoia, you never felt like the heroes against registration were under any threat (with the possible exception of Ant-Man in Ant-Man And The Wasp). If you look at the movies after Civil War:

  1. Doctor Strange (completely unaffected by Civil War as not recognised by the government)
  2. Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 (In space so unaffected)
  3. Spider-Man (pro-registration but didn’t affect the movie much. This is annoying as a big part of the Civil War comics was Spider-Man unmasking and revealing his identity, nothing similar to that has happened in this universe since the first Iron Man movie, and that was clearly Tony Starks decision, there’s no “forced to reveal identity” moments yet.)
  4. Thor: Ragnarok. (Again, in space)
  5. Black Panther (not as affected by the Registration Act as it could have been)
  6. Ant-Man And The Wasp (The most affected, but not essential)
  7. Infinity War (just causes a slight “we need to find this person” moment)
  8. Captain Marvel (Set in the past)

To be honest, I can’t even remember if the Act passed at the end of Civil War. That’s how little it’s affected the movies, and that can not be fixed now, it’s too late for it to start coming into effect now, and that’s disappointing. The other thing I’m disappointed in is that there were no post-snap movies. Ok, yeah, technically all movies now are post-snap, but they’re also going to be set after the resolution. There should have been a film between them, so many villain origin stories start with them losing their families, and yet the perfect opportunity for one now won’t happen (oh, spoilers, the people killed by the snap come back, but 5 years have passed in this world so they will be 5 years younger than they should be when they come back, I REALLY hope they make a big point of this in future films). We mostly saw how the snap affected heroes, we didn’t get much of it affecting the world, the opening scenes were done to show that, but the audience isn’t as invested in that as they should be as they’re sitting there waiting for everyone to get revenge on Thanos. Can you imagine how much more effective it would have been if there was an entire movie set in that world? The chaos, the frustration, the paranoia, the fear, the bastards using it to make money, the conspiracy theories! Do ordinary people know it was Thanos? As far as most of them saw, half the world just disappeared with no explanation. The only way they’d know it was Thanos is if someone put out a press release, which I can’t really see happening somehow. So can you imagine the conspiracy theories that would arise from that? It would be INSANE, and yet we will never find out (although I am thinking of writing a short Marvel story set in that universe, just to express that idea).

I know I haven’t spoken much about this film, but I feel if you wanted to see it, you would have seen it already, there’s nothing I can say in this review that will change that. Also, the entire internet has opinions on it and has expressed them better than I could. They’ve been right; it’s emotional as hell, full to the brim with references and fan-service, things are paid off which you didn’t even realise they were setting up, and most characters get their time to shine. It’s not perfect though; Captain Marvel seems misused, only seeming to exist as a Deus Ex Machina, and she’s involved in one of the most cringy moments of the franchise so far which is clearly designed to get a reaction in the cinema but is so false it seems like pandering. Despite how many characters are included, some rather important ones are missing with not even a mention. Also if you think about some aspects of the plot for too long it does seem to fall apart slightly.

But despite that, I highly recommend it, so far it’s been the best example of spectacle so far this year, and I doubt even the Godzilla movie could top it

Wild Rose (2019)

I was slightly apprehensive about this film. I worried it would try too hard to be emotional and would just fall flat. I don’t really connect with a lot of country music on an emotional level, so if that’s the lynchpin of the film then I just won’t get it. Also, it’s a British movie about a working-class person wanting to live their dreams; films like that tend to not do well in the “great plot” stakes, usually incredibly predictable and obvious. There was a small glimmer of hope however that it would work. As this film went on that hope became larger, I became emotionally invested in this film and it just really works, a lot. Most of that is due to the performance of Jessie Buckley, who I’ll admit I’m not too familiar with but I feel I should be, her performance in this is breath-taking, turning what could be an unlikeable character into one you really root for and that you can’t help but love.

Make no mistake, this is a SCOTTISH country film, the fact it’s set in Scotland adds a lot to the story and the character and makes it unique. I mean, it’s also a Scottish COUNTRY film, wouldn’t really work with most other music genres, there’s something about the soul of country music which lends itself to this film. I mean, I suppose it’s also a Scottish country FILM as it wouldn’t work if it was a fruit basket, but that would just be silly, albeit delicious.

It’s not perfect, there are a few moments which only exist to service the plot, in fact, there’s one character who almost seems to exist only to further the plot with her actions. Don’t get me wrong, the interactions between them and the main character are incredibly heart-warming and lovely, it does seem a little hollow at times. The way the main character reacts to her seems incredibly out of character and only seems to happen to cause a plot-problem later down the line.

I mentioned the performances earlier, and whilst they are good, they’re not the best part of the film. The best part is something you can’t really identify but is there; the heart. Everything in this film seems like it’s done with great love and emotion, and it’s that which carries this film through the weaker moments. The heart Jessie Buckley puts into the songs she performs brings tears to your eyes. Even the ending is full of heart, ending with something that’s not the happy ending the film is expected to have, but the one that the film deserves, and it’s beautiful.

Hellboy (2019)

Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear. That’s all I have to say about this really. I remember being kind of hyped up for this. It looked like it was going to be a mature bloody kind of film, but one that’s a lot of fun. It essentially looked like a mix of Logan and Thor: Ragnarok. Instead, it’s like a mix of Thor: Dark World, and a 15-year-old on Twitter. The Thor comparison is simple; I heavily disliked both and found them incredibly bland looking. The 15-year-old; that’s more complicated. You know when kids reach adolescence and they consider themselves adults? So they decide to act more “adult”, but all this means is they actually become pricks? Yeah, it’s that. This film is the cinematic equivalent of someone typing “I’ve got a big cock, you fag! Watch this video of people being executed. Hitler was my hero, megalols”. It has no nuance, subtlety, or actual maturity to it, in fact, it’s trying so damn hard to appear mature that it comes off as juvenile.

I did have kind of high hopes for this, hopes that faded when the early reviews came in. I understand this kind of film isn’t for everyone, so an average score in the ’60s would be acceptable. But at the time of writing the average score is 14%. That suggests a complete trainwreck, a film that fails on a very basic level. And it does. The pacing is just weird, it takes forever to say things that it could say in a minute, then glosses over things that they should focus on. We spend a lot of time introduced to characters who essentially don’t even matter. I’d estimate at least 30% of this film could be cut out and you wouldn’t lose anything. It doesn’t even have the decency to look good. I mean, it does in some parts, but in others, the CGI looks woeful, there’s one moment near the end in particular which is almost laughable. What’s not as laughable are the jokes, I think they’re supposed to be jokes, they have the cadence of jokes, but not the humour. It’s hard to tell because tonally this film is all over the place, and it’s not really helped by the performance. There’s a certain performer in this film who I have not seen in anything else, so I feel bad slating their performance because everyone can have an off day, so I won’t name them (if it was a very well known one, trust me I’d go all guns blazing, but with this it would just seem rude), but trust me, it’s one of the worst performances I’ve seen in a long time, probably not helped by the fact they’re playing a nationality that definitely isn’t their native one, and as such the accent wavers all over the place.

I mean, on the plus side the gore is a welcome change, they just couldn’t match the gore with grown-up sensibilities and tone (unlike Logan, which matched both PERFECTLY). And David Harbour is almost good enough to forget that he’s not Ron Perlman, almost. But it’s not good enough to pass over the multiple flaws this movie has. If I was thirteen years old, this would be my favourite movie,  although I’d also be too young to see at the cinema. In a world where Marvel movies are making billions, films which seem this lazy are not acceptable.