Nomadland (2020)

Knew nothing of this film going in, that’s becoming a running theme with these reviews lately. Truth be told I don’t actively seek out films, I don’t go onto film sites and search for recommendations. My knowledge of what films to see come from four sources:

  1. Trailers at the cinema
  2. Personal recommendation (is why I watched Love And Monsters)
  3. If it gets nominated for a lot of awards (Sound Of Metal)

My fourth one is the one I’ve used the most this year. And if you ever wondered how the hell I found some random films, it’s likely to be from this. I go onto every week to look at the films that have been released that week, if I haven’t heard of it at all I’ll quickly google it and see if it intrigues me. That’s why I end up hearing about films such as Come True (very much yay), Blithe Spirit (very much not yay), and I Blame Society (I don’t know yet as I haven’t seen it, but it looks great). When I say “it intrigues me” I mean that I read a quick one line synopsis, if that hooks me I usually just add it to the list. So there’s a lot of films where I haven’t even seen the trailer (if I had then I wouldn’t have seen Mouthpiece as I’ve since watched the trailer for that and it did nothing for me, which is a shame as it would have meant missing out on one of my favourite films of the year).

So yeah, despite it being one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year (well, technically last year. I’ll stop using parenthesis soon I swear), I went into this knowing very little. Highly recommend going into it this way as seeing everything unfurl in front of you is a delightful experience. I say “delightful”, it’s actually horrible. This has the tone and look of an apocalyptic future. It resembles a word in the near future left ravaged by war. So when is this film set? 2011. That’s a stunning indictment of American capitalism.

But that’s not really what this film is, it’s not about dystopia and bleakness. It’s ultimately about humanity and hope. It’s about beauty and life. It’s about everything and nothing all at once. It feels all too real, but sometimes that realness gives you a warm glow inside.

The feeling of reality is helped by the cast, mainly because Chloe Zhao decided to cast non-actors, instead reaching out to people who actually live the nomadic life. Risky strategy, but it definitely works. These characters know the perfect way to play every single piece of dialogue, bringing the characters to life in a way that few other films could. I should also mention the way that Zhao shot a lot of it. She doesn’t go to make it look like a dramatic film, it’s shot almost like a documentary. Again, this makes everything feel real. It doesn’t often feel like you’re watching a film, but more like you’re standing there alongside them, it truly makes you feel like part of a community (then the film finishes and you’re back to a reality where you’re alone with just a cup of tea for company, and you cry). Considering this film stars Frances McDormand, one of the best performers around, making you forget that she’s an actor is something incredibly difficult to do. But both the talent of the film, and the talent of McDormand herself, make that easy to do.

I suppose it is also helped by being based on a non-fiction book (Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century) which I now need to read I think. You’d think being based on a non-fiction book would mean it lacks narrative. It kind of does, but also doesn’t. It’s not a standard “A leads to B, which leads to C” style plot. It’s the cinematic equivalent of just wandering around somewhere (almost nomadically you could say) and observing. Sometimes you meander, taking stock of what’s in front of you at that moment, sometimes you move forward quicker, and sometimes you stand still. It’s the moments where characters just sit around talking which are the highlights. A key example of this is a guy explaining how his son committed suicide. He talks about how living on the road means you never say goodbye, because you know you’re going to see everybody further down the road. That’s why he does it, because he feels it means his son hasn’t said goodbye, they’ll always meet each other later on. Just writing that bit and remembering it almost brought me to tears just now. That’s how powerful it is.

In summary, you really need to see this. It’s one of the most compelling things I’ve seen all year, and it deserves everything you could give it. Plus it’s available for free on disney+ right now so….yeah.

The Father (2020)

This film is a mess. The way it’s edited means it lacks any sense of cohesive structure. It’s incredibly difficult to figure out what the hell is going on and you sit there for most of the film being confused and trying to make sense of it all.

And I love it. That’s the best way to tell this story, it’s certainly the most effective. It’s all well and good telling people about the horrifying effects of suffering with dementia, but this is the best way to actually SHOW it, to put you in the shoes of someone with it. The confusion, the mixing up of times and characters (there are moments where the characters are suddenly played by different actors). I’m a big fan of when narrative structure suits the film. If this was a standard A-B film it probably still would have been good, but that’s all it would have been, good. It wouldn’t have been as great as it is. It wouldn’t have been as impactful as it is. It wouldn’t have caused almost everybody in the cinema to break into tears at the end.

Jesus, the end. Spoilers here I guess, but this isn’t really a film you watch for the narrative, you watch it for the experience (and it’s certainly an experience). You may survive the rest of the film untouched (you monster) but I doubt you’ll make it through the ending feeling nothing. For the rest of the film you’re confused, bewildered, and trying to ground yourself (damn I love how it puts you in his shoes), but for this moment? You know what’s going on, and it devastates you. It’s just Anthony Hopkins saying he feels his mind going (or as it’s brilliantly put: he’s losing his leaves), and he cries and begs for his mommy. The helplessness and weakness he shows is heartbreaking. Especially since Hopkins normally plays characters who are not just in control, but usually the smartest person in the room. So to see him do that really hits home how bad it can get.

Olivia Colman also knocks it out the park, as she usually does. When exactly did she become that damn good? It’s still weird to see her as this acting behemoth capable of making you feel every emotion, when I still can’t unsee her characters from Mitchell And Webb. I never would have guessed when she was doing comedy like that that she’d turn into what she has, and I’ve got to be honest, I’m still not entirely sure when it happened, was it Broadchurch?

The downside of this film? The directing could be a bit stronger at times. The director (Florian Zeller) has a history in theatre, and that shows in his directing choices. There are a lot of static shots, there is not a lot here in terms of shot composition that you couldn’t do on a stage. Compare this to something like Mouthpiece (yes, I’m mentioning that film again, because I know you haven’t seen it and you really should), also based on a play, but did things in the film that would not be possible on stage, and was all the better for it. He did some things which were great, but I feel a lot of that (changing the set subtly between scenes) is taken from the play. Controversial opinion: maybe should have had someone on set who’s experienced in horror movies. Not to add lots of jump scares and threatening chords, but just to amp up the fear factor the character is feeling. If you’ve got someone who is experienced in making characters seem more helpless in certain situations, it might have improved certain scenes and helped them achieve more.

That’s a very small niggle though, you still need to watch this film. Either see it at the cinema, or wait until it’s shown on Channel 4 at Christmas. A truly powerful piece of cinema that deserves watching.

Although it does seem weirdly French for some reason. Just tonally.

Nobody (2021)

I went in with relatively high expectations for this. All I had heard is it was John Wick-like, and I loved those movies. So I expected greatness, but I also thought there was a chance it wouldn’t live up to the hype.

Thankfully it does. It takes longer than you’d think to get going, there’s a few moments where you think you’re going to see him being violent but he doesn’t, but he later explains why and it’s perfect. It also means when the inevitable finally does happen, it’s beautifully cathartic, it had been building up to it beautifully. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t take the entire film to do that, in reality it probably takes about 15-20 minutes so it’s a good length, you don’t get bored waiting around for what you know will happen (like what happens while watching Ma, as you can see in this wonderful review by the smartest and sexiest person alive). The scene where it happens is truly superb, and gives a good indication of the difference between this and John Wick. Whenever you watch a John Wick film, the way he fights seems almost superhuman, so you’re amazed by what that person can do physically. Here, he doesn’t fight like he’s a superhuman god, he just fights smarter. He takes random opportunities to commit violence against them using unexpected ways. It’s not as flashy, but it’s definitely effective. It’s the way someone who’s actually training to fight would fight, not the way someone training to make a fight look good fights.

I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t expect Bob Odenkirk to be able to pull this off, I mainly know him from comedies, and in them he usually has a certain character he plays: someone quite smarmy who you can imagine avoiding physical confrontation. The kind of guy for whom when he’s married his most common phrase seems to be “yes dear” before being forced to do something he doesn’t want to do, the very definition of milquetoast. That characterisation plays into this though, everybody sees him as some meek person who’s incapable of defending himself. To the point where even the police chew him out for not killing someone.

I’m kind of conflicted on that aspect. The film has people say he’s not a real man because he doesn’t fight, but then they respect him when he does. So it’s saying the people are wrong, and that he is a man, but only BECAUSE he fights, if he didn’t do that, he’d still be nothing to them. So while it’s saying stuff about toxic masculinity, it is still weirdly perpetuating the followings of it.

It feels like action movies have moved more towards featuring older leads, especially since the success of Taken. But there are times in some of them where it stretches disbelief to see someone that much older (and sometimes out of shape) easily match fitness levels with groups of professional assassins much younger than them. This manages to make it believable by having him get the crap kicked out of him, but just keep going, and yet not fully recover from the injuries. Also, he makes mistakes while fighting, he misjudges distances slightly and hits his head on things. It makes it seem real. That’s what puts this film over the multitude of other action films, just how real it all feels.

I mean, it does go bombastic when it needs to. The scenes of him and Christopher Lloyd (yeah, he’s in this too) defending their building from a group of invading Russian gangsters (I’ll admit, the plot for this isn’t exactly original, it not only wears it’s influences on its sleeves, but also fashioned a tie out of them) are pretty badass. Actually all the action scenes are fantastic, but it spreads them out REALLY well. It’s not a constant barrage of fight scenes, it places them strategically when they would serve the narrative best, it’s one of the best examples of how to handle writing action movies, the film is not just an excuse to go from one action set-piece to the next, with the rest of the film just being filler. It uses narrative to justify the action as opposed the other way around. It does help that the non-action bits are still really good. They’re funny, interesting, and show great use of characters.

So yeah, go see it. It’s only 90 minutes too, the perfect length.

Army Of The Dead (2021)

So this film happened. This may surprise you but I actually haven’t seen that many zombie movies. Well, not the original ones anyway. Most of the ones I’ve seen have been modern zombie movies, ones which are self-aware and have already shown knowledge of the genre (with the exception of I Walked With A Zombie). So I have certain things I expect from the genre, most importantly you have to be bringing something new to the table. Sometimes that is just something as simple as making it incredibly slick. I feel that’s what they were going for here, they were going for a cinematic slickness which, combined with the heist aspect, would create something new.

The heist aspect never really comes off though. A good heist movie involves the main characters outsmarting people or tricking technology, neither of which occur in this. There’s the obvious double cross, but it occurs VERY early on, and the person hides their true nature for the rest of the film, so when they then turn on everybody else, it’s not a surprise as you knew he was going to do that. So it’s a heist movie without surprises, and really, without an antagonist. Because of this it doesn’t really work as a heist movie.

It has some nice ideas though, the opening credits are great (and very reminiscent of Zombieland), but even that has a downside if you think about it for a few minutes. Like there’s a scene where a Liberace-like character is getting ready to play piano as chaos unfolds behind him. Music is being played over this scene, and it has to be because if there wasn’t and you played it as a standard scene, you’d be able to hear the chaos behind him, which means you know that HE’D be able to hear it. That’s the problem with Snyder, he is so dedicated to getting THE SHOT that it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense. Also the film has decaying zombie boobs, because it’s clear his core audience is 14 year old boys.

Oh, and the zombies roar. Because they’re supposed to be seen as not human. BUT, they’re shown to be smart, they plan, they plot etc. And there is an element of humanity to them, they clearly understand the concepts of betrayal and negotiation, and they mourn the dead. The large setpiece at the end is brought about when the head zombie finds his dead partner was pregnant with a zombie fetus. There is enough information in that short sentence that means you could be mistaken for thinking this film has good ideas, but it does nothing with them. The ideas are woefully underused, and it’s a massive disappointment. I mean, there’s a moment where they talk about the rain bringing certain zombies back to life. The film then proceeds to not rain. Then why mention it? The film constantly talks about delicious steaks, then serves us cold porridge when it knows we’re hungry.

The characters……they are not good characters. Everybody is just different degrees of either shitty or forgettable. They’re not helped by the dialogue though, most of it is just generic shit.

Now onto the look. Normally with a Snyder film you know at the very least it’s going to look incredible. Well, not so much with this. This is going to be a personal preference but I HATED the way most of this looked. The way they filmed it in very high definition and the way they handled the cinematography made everything look fake. Specifically everything looked like scale models. So even though it’s all real, nothing looked like it. Perfect example here:

There’s also one shot choice which I personally found weird but you can disagree. There’s a moment where someone is talking “I’m definitely more important than that guy, oh. didn’t know you were listening. Okay, I’m definitely more important than that guy” whilst pointing at some people. Now, the camera never cuts away from this person, so we never see who they’re pointing at. Surely that’s just begging for a reaction shot of the people she’s talking about? If we don’t see the reaction shots, and we also don’t know who they’re even talking about, then what was the point of that piece of dialogue?

On the plus side: like I said, it had some good ideas, some of the performances are good, and it is good to see something new. Some of the deaths are damn brutal and I love them. Plus it has a zombie tiger. And I will always appreciate a film using Thea Gilmore’s cover of Bad Moon Rising.

Maybe it would have been better if the film wasn’t set so late after the zombie outbreak happens. If you hear “zombies in Las Vegas” you think of bright lights, you don’t think of abandoned buildings. With the exception of the sublime opening, the film never makes use of it being in Las Vegas. I get it, destroyed buildings and silence can add to a zombie movies tone to highlight the difference between before and after, but that normally happens with places we recognise, either in cities we know all the sights of, or in locations very generic which we’ve all been to (malls etc). There’s a reason the posters all highlighted the neon look, because that’s what you think of when you think of this location. You don’t think of various browns. There’s no reason this film is in vegas, and now I think about it, it would have made a lot more sense if it was set in Iraq or Afghanistan. Not just for the visuals, but also the militaristic nature of the survivors, and the willingness to nuke it and pretend it doesn’t exist.

So yeah, maybe see it, but not if you’re busy. Or just watch Zombieland instead.

A Quiet Place Part 2 (2021)

FINALLY! I got “out next week” style trailers for this before the first lockdown. Buses have had the poster for this on them for so long they’re starting to fade. I’ve been waiting for the cinemas to reopen, and this film is the reason why. I should point out, because of the delay, it’s been so long since I saw the trailer, I actually can’t remember much from it. I remember how it made me feel, excited, and a little creeped out. The idea that in some ways the surviving humans would be the villains in this is strangely compelling, and it has a hint of truth to it. To survive in this world, it would have been an advantage to be a complete prick. I was really looking forward to seeing that play out in this.

But… doesn’t. Not really. There’s one scene where a group of people trap two of the characters, rob them, leave one of them to be killed, and will (probably judging by how they acted) rape the other one. That scene lasts I’d say about ten minutes. After that we see a community that has survived and thrived by helping each other. That lasts much longer. I suppose in some ways that’s nice, it shows a glimmer of hope for the world. But to look at it another way: this wouldn’t be the film I’d chose to watch if I was looking for something nice, that’s not what I want from this film, especially with how it was marketed.

Not my biggest issue with the film. My biggest issue is the sound. Now, I LOVE the sound design of the first one, the use of silence helped it stand out in a crowded field, and it’s a great film to watch in a full room as you can sense everybody in the audience trying their best to not make a noise. It modified viewer behaviour, and you don’t get that in this film. You don’t get that in this film for one simple reason: it uses music. Yup, over dramatic scenes, it plays suitable music, it seems like the film is scared of letting films be silent, which considering that’s what made the first film stand out, is a weird choice. It would be like making Saw II and having all the traps take place off-screen. It’s weird as it’s the same director as the first one, but it feels very different. The only major difference is that Krasinski wrote this one, whereas he only directed the first one. That explains the difference in tone of the script, but it doesn’t explain why it feels so different to watch.

Maybe it’s the age difference as well. It’s been a few years since the first film, but it’s set very soon after. Sadly it means at least one of the kids looks very different. That kid gets caught in a bear trap really early on, personally I think he should have died there. It would have taken him out of the film and done away with one of the most distracting sub-plots. It also would have made the characters feel more panicked, so add to their suffering. Plus, imagine that scene playing out. Unlike the death of the child in the first film, which was quick, this would be slow. The family would be hiding, too scared to make a noise in case they attract the aliens, they’d have no choice but to sit and watch, knowing what is going to happen but being too powerless to stop it long term. It would be an incredibly powerful scene, and would impact every decision made from then on.

So yeah, this film is kind of a disappointment. It is still a very solid piece of film-making. It still does everything it needs to. If this was a new franchise it would be a solid 8/10. But as a sequel to one of the most unique horror films of the last few years, I can’t help but feel a little cheated.

Cruella (2021)

All I knew about this film was that it existed. I assumed it was still in production when it suddenly came out. I haven’t been too big a fan of the live action disney adaptations lately so I didn’t exactly have great expectations, or indeed any Dickens books.

Shit, that was terrible. On with the review while I have a long hard think about my life.

I’m gonna say it, so far this is the best film I’ve seen at the cinema this year. Godzilla Vs. Kong may have benefited more from being at the cinema, and may be more technically impressive, but this is without a doubt the most I’ve enjoyed watching a film at cinema this year. It’s a bit bloated at times (it could stand to lose a good 20 minutes), and it does suffer a bit from not knowing how to use music, similar to Suicide Squad it just overloads the film with with rock music, ALL the time, not letting anything have silence. It’s almost like the film is scared that if you stop listening to the music you’ll focus on the visuals instead, which is a shame as you WANT to focus on the visuals in this, it’s a visually stunning piece of work. Okay the CGI for some parts looks a little dodgy, but the colours are phenomenal. I don’t often point out costume design in cinema, because it’s usually not something that sways my opinions on a film, I’ve never gone “well I would have really enjoyed that film, but the costumes were from 1763, when the film was actually set in 1762, might as well have given them jetpacks”. The costume design here has to be mentioned though, it’s REALLY damn good. It contributes to the look and general style of the film in a tremendous way. It kind of had to, though. It’s heavily based around the fashion industry, so if the clothes looked bad, it would have effected my enjoyment of the film as it would have seemed less real.

I will freely admit I’m not too familiar with the original 101 Dalmatians film. This is important as I’ve heard some people say they don’t like this film as it messes with the continuity of the series. I have no idea how severely it does that, so I can’t judge it on those standards, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention it so that it at least looks like I know what I’m talking about. I know there are also people complaining that two white actors are played by people who are non-white, this is a complete disgrace apparently and means you should boycott the movie. Go ahead, don’t see this movie, its your loss. This is a fantastic movie, and if you’re too blinded by your stupidity (but seem okay with Cruella being English and yet very rarely being played by an English person) to see that, then you don’t deserve this movie.

Everyone else, though, you can go see it, and enjoy it. Well, you should enjoy it anyway. Everything about it just works. The performances work, not just Emma Stone as the titular character but all the supporting actors too. Fun fact, I didn’t see a trailer for this so didn’t know who was in it. And during the opening scenes I had a realisation: “Emma Thompson would make a great Cruella, or just a disney villain in general”, she then turns up as the villain in this movie. Also, she’s not in it for much but Tipper Seifert-Cleveland does brilliantly as a younger version of the character, she nails it with a confidence beyond her years.

Now onto the biggest flaw: the script is a bit bland. It never really shocks you. Characters seemingly have personality changes on a whim just to suit the narrative. Also it never REALLY examines the characters motivations for future films. It basically feels like “she wants to skin dogs because they killed her mother”, which seems a bit weak. The length of the film also works against it, it could stand to lose about 20 minutes. No major removals, just tightening up a few moments so it flows better. There is one character who could be deleted completely. Apparently she’s in the original films so I’m guessing that’s why she’s in it. But she essentially gets threatened by the villain, and then nothing comes of it. We don’t see anything bad happen to her which makes Cruella realise the consequences of her actions. Her story arc (or lack of one) doesn’t impact the film in a significant way, so can be cut, or at the very least reduced severely.

So in summary: I would recommend this film. It’s available at cinemas, and you can pay premium pass to watch it on disney+, so I assume that means it will be available for general viewing there later in the year. Well worth a watch.

Surge (2020)

They say you only get one chance to make a good first impression. This is very true (maybe only for me) when it comes to actors. It doesn’t matter how many serious films Olivia Coleman is in, I will always see her as Sophie from Peep Show. That kind of thing hit this film HARD, I know Ben Whishaw is a great actor, with a tremendous filmography. But to me he will always be Pingu from Nathan Barley, or Paddington. This is an action film, and to have the shadow of Paddington loom over it means the film is a strange watch.

Strange, but interesting. There are moments where nothing happens, which can be dull as hell to watch. In reality it’s strangely enthralling. It’s like watching a car crash in super slow motion. You know something awful is going to happen, and you know what it will be, but despite knowing it won’t be happening yet, you still can’t turn away, you want to watch every single second unfold in front of you.

I’m still not sure what I thought of it to be honest. It’s not an easy watch, but it’s not supposed to be. For some reason it feels almost voyeuristic. It kind of feels like you’re not watching a film, but like someone has just got their phone out and started to film a guy having a breakdown. That gritty invasive style won’t be for everybody, and some people will really love it. It’s the kind of style which splits reviewer ratings to either be 9/10 or 1/10, or somehow both at the same time.

I’m not even sure whether I can recommend this. It’s unrelentingly brutal. But not in a “everybody is in constant physical pain” way, more, like the universe itself is painful to live in. Part of that is due to the directing, this is the first feature-length film directed by Aneil Karia, and he does it brilliantly. The script? Not so much, there are too many moments where you are just kind of bored. I feel it could have done with either being cut down, or by adding moments where stuff happens to keep you interested. It depends too heavily on the performances and the directing, if it wasn’t for that it would sink without a trace. Thankfully the performances are great. Whishaw is intense as hell, worlds away from the cuddliness of Paddington or the the knowledge of Q. I just wish the world was as good as his character. It’s fascinating as a character study, to watch someone get broken and get constantly criticised (at one point, for swallowing too loudly) until he eventually just snaps. It’s a character that’s deserving of much more captivating story.

So should you watch this? I’m still not sure to be honest, I’d say watch it if you get a chance, but no need to seek it out. Shame as from a technical standpoint it is great, but it’s lacking so much from a storytelling perspective. Put it this way: I would much rather listen to a soundscape based on this film, than I would read a book adaptation.

Spiral: From The Book Of Saw (2021)

Well this is interesting. It’s a horror movie, specifically a Saw movie, starring Chris Rock. I wouldn’t necessarily say I was excited by this film, but I was curious. I thought at worst it would just be a train wreck, like it would go too Chris Rock and be way too comedic. Thankfully it keeps the comedy away from the horror, you don’t often get characters making jokes in the presence of a dead body, for example. There are still a few too many comedic lines though, and they do detract away from the movies tone. They’re the typical Chris Rock jokes too, him calling other cops motherfuckers and insinuating they’re idiots. Those moments don’t suit the style of the film, they’re more like a buddy cop film, which would have worked if more of the film was like that. It’s like it’s trying to be both a buddy cop film and a horror and that mix of genres doesn’t really work.

It’s not helped by the run-time. Usually I complain about films being too long, but this is the opposite. This is supposed to be an atmospheric horror, and those require long scenes of build up, then a payoff. I mentioned earlier it has shades of a buddy cop movie, and those require the following scenes:

  • Renegade cop saves someone.
  • “you’re too dangerous, renegade cop” “fuck you” “you need a partner” “fuck you, I work alone”
  • Car ride of tension between the two where the partner makes jokes, they discuss their families.
  • First case.
  • They start to warm to each other.
  • They become friends investigating something else.
  • (sometimes) one dies and the fallout from that.

Those scenes can’t be done in less than a minute, they all require set ups and pay-offs. And they’re very dialogue heavy so again, take a while. Having both genres and trying to do them in a 93 minute movie is a recipe for disaster. Well, maybe disaster is a bit harsh, it’s not an entirely unpleasant viewing experience, it’s just a bit pedestrian. Not the traps though, the traps are wonderful. By which I mean they’re horrific in the best possible way. So when the movie is actually a Saw movie, it works. When it’s not? It’s kind of dull. Saw movies are can be heavily criticised (and for good reason) but they’re never usually dull. Also, they’re never normally as predictable as this one is. If you’ve seen a film before, you can probably guess the ending. You know it has to be a character the film has already introduced, and there’s really only one (at a stretch, two) characters it could be, REALLY weak plotting. Also, his fake voice is fucking weak. It doesn’t feel like a voice that’s going to inspire fear, it feels more like a voice that’s going to tell it’s mother to go get more hot pockets and mountain dew, and no mom I can’t pause the game I hate you I wish I’d never been born *flounces out room*.

Other examples of weak script: there are a lot of moments where unless something happened EXACTLY as it happens in the movie, nothing would have happened. Okay, admittedly that’s something which has been the case for a lot of the films, a lot of the time, if someone moved ever so slightly to the left, everything would have been avoided. It makes you realise you’re not in reality, but watching a movie, something which is definitely the case with this movie. I’m going to spoil the ending of this movie in the next paragraph btw.

So at the end, Chris Rocks dad (Samuel L Jackson) gets kidnapped by the killer, the police move into the building, his arm gets raised in a mechanical contraption, so the police shoot him. Meanwhile, the killer walks away using the service lift. The film ends there. Now, all it would have taken is for the police to realise that the person they’re shooting was clearly not in control of his limbs, or for Chris Rock to tell them that and just get them to take a step to the left and avoid getting shot (it was all automatic so the path was fixed, the arm wouldn’t have been able to be moved from left to right). Plus, unless EVERY police officer went into the building, there are going to be some outside, ready to catch the guy as soon as he steps out of the lift. Shit, they could probably see him from outside the window as he made his escape.

On the plus side, as I side, the traps are great, the story itself is probably one of the best in the series (just weakly told), and the performances are what they need to be (the “jigsaw” voice being the obvious weakest part). It also looks pretty damn good, it has a summer feeling to it that the others lack. The others felt almost entirely about the killings, but this one at the very least seems as though the city is a real breathing entity full of untold stories. It feels more fleshed out than the actual characters.

There’s definitely potential here, it’s just let down by the pacing and the tonal shifts. Oh, I bingewatched Taskmaster before this, which created a very strange mash-up in my head. I’m not saying this film would have been improved by having a seven-foot tall British comedian routinely insulting everybody, but, well actually it would.

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

I really enjoyed the first one. Probably one of the best all-round superhero movies of the last few years. When I saw the trailer for this I thought it looked a lot of fun, it brought to mind Thor: Ragnarok. I felt sure that this would be incredibly fun, just balls out insanity and slickness. Then it came out, very quietly, in December, I think. That was not a good sign. If it was a film the studio had faith in, they would have delayed it until the cinemas were open (like what happened with A Quiet Place 2), or made a bigger deal of what streaming sites it was on to purchase (like Disney+ have been doing with their stuff). The way they released it had all the hallmarks of a “let’s quietly put this out and hope nobody notices”. I delayed watching this as I was certain it was going to get an actual cinema release when they re-opened.

So yeah, that put a few worries in me, and then those worries increased when I heard people talk about it. Well, they didn’t talk about it much, which was the problem. The only time I’ve heard it mentioned was when I made a reference to The Monkey’s Paw in an earlier review and someone asked if it was about this film. The fact that nobody talked about this film is not a good sign. Now I’ve seen it has my opinion changed? Well I’ll say this, the fact that I knew NOTHING about the post-credits cameo is a sign of how few people discuss this film. I’ll spoil it here, it’s not really relevant to the plot so I think it’s okay. It has Lynda Carter do a cameo, the original Wonder Woman, she turns up, saves a child, says she’s been doing this a while, then winks to camera. Holy crap the implications for this and the future of the DCEU are huge, yet nobody talks about it.

Turns out there’s a reason for that, this film is not great. It seems like the type of sequel that was made by completely different crew from the original, which is weird as it had same director for both. Although it has to be said that Patty Jenkins only directed the first one, she didn’t write it, whereas she did write this one, so maybe that’s the problem. The script is just so poor, full of logical inconsistencies. A big issue is that it is a prequel, yet the events of it were not mentioned in Justice League or Dawn Of Justice. Nobody seems to have remembered the time a guy gave everybody in the world a wish and how it led to chaos. It doesn’t seem like everything from it was forgotten, just the effects reversed (although considering a few people died due to wishes, do they come back? The film doesn’t say). Also, she doesn’t use some of the things from this film again, and they would have come in very useful.

Also the way the film plays with the wishes is inconsistent. At one point the villain says he can give out any number of wishes he wants because he is the wish-stone, yet before that he asks someone to make a wish on his behalf. And some of the wishes only seem to work in a way that advances the plot, it’s like it knows it has a narrative to fulfil. It’s a shame as it could have been interesting, if they made it smaller. Having it all over the whole world makes it TOO big. If it was focused on one city it would have allowed the audience to get a better look at the effects of the negative side of the wishes. Instead we spend way too much of this film in watching people travel. Plus, it would have given plausible deniability for this film never being mentioned again. You’re telling me that a worldwide event like this wouldn’t have caught the attention of Mark Strong’s character from Shazam?

Here’s the thing; if I wasn’t thinking, I might have enjoyed this film. It looked good enough and the performances were good. But as soon as you think about this movie for more than a second, the flaws are too apparent to ignore. Some are just basic storytelling mistakes like how the main villain had a difficult childhood, a fact which informs a lot of his decisions during the movie. Also a fact which isn’t properly explored until right near the end of the film, bit of a weird choice, and not a good one. Also the opening scene isn’t needed. There’s a whole opening set during an athletic event in Wonder Woman’s childhood where she got caught “cheating” and admonished for it. seems to be just so they can tell her about the dangers of not putting effort in, but there must have been a much more natural way to do that, and one that doesn’t take about twenty minutes. The film is two and a half hours, and does not justify that length at all. I could have forgiven the film not making sense, but I can’t forgive how dull it is a lot of the time. Looks great though.

So in summary; see it if you must, but there’s nothing saying you must.

The Mitchells vs. the Machines (2021)

This film ended up on my good side with one of the opening quotes: “Every family has its challenges. From picture day to picky eaters. For my family our greatest challenge? probably the machine apocalypse.”. It then follows it with “i did what any outsider would do, made weird art”. A film which shows film-making not as a “I want to be Scorsese and important” but sometimes “I need to make some stuff”. It’s about film-making not as a way to showcase something or to make a point, but because you can’t not do it.

Truth be told, it was in my good graces from when I first saw the trailer. It looked unique and weird, but there was a slight concern that it would basically be “Technology bad! Old way good!” boomer bullshit. I should have known by the writing talent that it would be a lot better than that. The script is mostly incredibly smart, with believable characters and great scenes. I mean, it features a scene where a kid phones up everybody in the phone book and asks if they want to talk about dinosaurs, what’s not to love about that? It’s really weird, but the kind of weirdness that seems natural for certain kids to do.

Like I said, they NAIL the character work here. Everybody seems to have their own motivations. You could read the script with all the names blanked out, and automatically know who each character is due to how differently defined they are. That’s for the ones we see anyway. There is another family, the archetypical “perfect” family who are their neighbours/friendly rivals. Here’s one thing I think the film could have improved upon. The other family are not featured in it enough. It would have been entertaining to see them in it too. There’s a moment where they use teamwork to escape the initial attack, they then get captured later. Would have been better if throughout the film, whenever we see the Mitchell family struggling, the other family are coping easily. Yes, it would have meant the main characters aren’t the only ones to escape, but that shouldn’t have been the case anyway. When you watch Shaun Of The Dead, the main group aren’t the only ones in the world fighting back, and it makes it seem like it exists in the world. The story is driving the family, rather than the other way around, which is what it feels like in this. It’s a real shame as there was potential for those characters to be involved in a way that really developed the story.

Now onto my next negative point: the animation. This is just personal opinion, and it might just be the way I watched it, but it just seemed a bit….off. There’s a weird texture on everything. It reminded me of the way that The Wolf Among Us was animated, mixed with “taking your glasses off while watching a 3D movie”. Really weird and made it kind of hard to enjoy at times.

I know that sounds like I’m being negative, but there was a lot to enjoy. The dialogue is hilarious at times, the voice acting is great (Olivia Colman is obviously having a lot of fun), and it’s so emotional it seems like a Pixar film at times. I would have liked to see it at the cinema, but I suppose the fact it’s available on netflix means you can all watch it. Not now, when I’ve finished review.

The film is good.

NOW you can see it.