Renfield (2023) Review

Quick synopsis: Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) wants to escape his life of servitude to Dracula (Nicholas Cage). Dracula is less than thrilled with this prospect.

If you look at the cast of Renfield you get a good indication of the tone: Awkwafina (she’s a genius), Ben Schwartz (he’s the WOOOOORST), and of course, the two Nicks; Cage and Hoult. That alone tells you that this will not be an intense character study. It’s going to be fun(ny), it’s going to be as subtle as a crowbar to the nuts, and it’s going to be weird. This feels destined to be a cult movie, it’s ultra-violent but in a weirdly “Rated 15” way, and has a lot of fun moments. If you’re a fan of the Dracula mythos, particularly the cinematic depictions then you’re going to find a lot of fun references to appreciate in this. Some of the references are very obvious; with the director changing the filming style to show an obvious homage to the 1931 depiction. Whereas some are more subtle, depending on musical cues and mannerisms. Cage’s Dracula is obviously based on the performance of Christopher Lee, and you couldn’t ask for someone more bombastically perfect than Cage.

I’ve seen some criticism that Cage isn’t in it enough, with people saying he should have had more focus than Hoult’s character of Renfield. I feel that’s an entirely subjective viewpoint, and people are just critiquing a film for not being exactly what they think it should be. It’s obvious this film is going to be about the character of Renfield, it’s literally the title. I actually like the character’s interactions with Awkwafina’s Rebecca Quincy. There’s a nice warmth to their interactions. Awkwafina is a great choice for the foul-mouthed idealistic ball of energy, playing well off Hoult’s more deadpan and “seen it all before” world-weariness.

Cage isn’t in Renfield much (the film, not the title character), that is true. But the shadow of his character looms over the narrative heavily, with his relationship with Renfield coming off more like an abusive relationship. That’s not accidental by the way, it’s flat-out stated in the dialogue that it’s like an abusive relationship. It’s a really smart choice and allows for some good laughs which are only possible in this film. The fight scenes are also full of unique moments, featuring set pieces and stunts which you’re not likely to see in lots of other media. I do appreciate how they didn’t just mine the “Big Book Of Action Set Pieces and Jokes” for this, they thought of unique moments and lines and then put them in, it shows that they actually put the effort in.

Now onto the downside; I wasn’t a fan of a moment near the end. The main characters bring back to life a number of characters who were slaughtered by Dracula earlier in the film. My issues: why only them? A lot of characters die, and not many get brought back. Also, it kind of minimizes their deaths and the potential emotional impact they had. It doesn’t even really seem worth it, if you deleted the resurrections then you wouldn’t miss them from the narrative. It just feels like it was done to end the film on a slightly lighter note and give the good characters a “happy” ending. It’s a shame as there are some parts of the ending which I love. What they do with Dracula’s body is hilariously twisted and brilliant, the definition of necessary overkill (yes, I know that seems like a contradiction but trust me).

So, in summary, I would recommend this, it’s a lot of fun and even if you don’t like it you’re likely to be amused throughout. Plus it teaches us a very important life lesson; you can use cocaine to solve your problems.

Assassin Club (2023) Review

Quick Synopsis: An elite assassin is given his final contract and must kill seven people around the world, only to discover the targets are equally skilled assassins hired to kill him.

There are few things that frustrate me more as a reviewer than a film that’s just “meh”. A film that is so bland that it’s difficult to talk about. So thank the heavens for a film like Assassin Club, a film that gives me so much to talk about on account of being absolute shit. It’s a confusing mess, not in a “the plot is too complicated” way, but in a visual way. It’s like it was made with no idea how to visually tell a story. Choices are made with the shots and edits which are truly baffling. It’s almost as if they were hoping the audience would see a sequence of quick jump cuts and be fooled into thinking that what they were watching was exciting. But it’s not exciting, again, it’s shit. Nothing about it ever goes above generic, I don’t know how such talented performers could seem so amateur. Noomi Rapace is better than this, she has proven it again and again, so I don’t know what she thought was doing in this but it’s not working. Henry Golding, again, has proven his talent in films like Crazy Rich Asians and Snake Eyes, to the point where there is a discussion about him possibly being the new Bond. In those circumstances, the studio will be looking to films like this as a litmus test as to whether he can pull it off. I have to admit, Assassin Club doesn’t help his case; despite being the lead it doesn’t really give much of an indication of what he can actually do as an action star. Every action scene is cut to an incomprehensible mess that gives the appearance that they were cutting around his failures as a performer.

The actors aren’t helped by the script, which, again, makes some decisions which seem a bit weird. For example; it builds up one of the assassins as a mysterious mystery, their name is not known, and neither is their face or any other identifiable features. Logically, a mystery like this is done so that you can have a reveal later on where it turns out a character you thought was harmless turns out to be the mystery assassin. The fact that the other assassins get killed off so quickly indicates that the direction the story is going in will be based on “let’s uncover this mystery person”. Nope, she (oh yeah, the character is a she) gets revealed in the next few minutes. So what was the point of having them be a mystery in the first place? The script makes the characters idiotic too. A character is injected with poison and told “Give me the information I want and I’ll give you the antidote”. He refuses the antidote, choosing to die, but gives over the information anyway. This character, by the way, is played by Sam Neil, and his character really lets the film down. He constantly withholds information that will help Goldings’ character, just so it’s withheld from the audience. He justifies it by saying things like “I knew you were going to defeat them anyway”, but still; that information would be useful.

Films like this either need to be very smart, very slick, or very fun. This is neither. It’s so dumb it feels like a 90s movie, completely wasting its potential premise (a similar premise was seen in Smoking Aces, and they had the decency to have a VERY strong supporting cast). This should be an ensemble piece, it’s seven assassins sent to kill each other, why would you make that film and only have a singular plot thread? Keeping more of the assassins alive for longer would have meant that Rapace’s character wouldn’t have had to slam the face/heel revolving door quite as frequently as she does. There are also multiple instances where characters don’t take the really obvious choice that will solve their problem/allow them to escape. There’s no thread of intelligence running through the narrative, instead, there’s just a motorway of disappointment. It’s shot too badly to be slick. Some camera angles are chosen not because they are the best option, but because the director thought it would look impressive for the half a second it was used for, like they’d seen it be used in other films and thought “Hey, let’s copy that”, without understanding why those shots and techniques were used.

It’s also too dull to be fun. Everything about it has been done better by films which aren’t even great. It’s the film equivalent of a tribute act to a covers band, bringing absolutely nothing new to the table. In a year where John Wick showed just how good action films could be, all this shows us is that 65 has competition for “Worst film of the year”.

The Night Of The 12th aka La Nuit du 12 (2022) Review

Quick Synopsis: It’s said that every police officer has a case that haunts them, this is the story of one of them.

Many people aren’t going to like this for one simple reason; it’s a murder investigation where the murderer is never found. I know, spoilers, but in my defence, the film does open with text saying “A lot of murders are not solved, this is one of them” so you can’t exactly say you’re not surprised. But despite that, when the police are investigating the death, interviewing suspects, and following leads, you still have hope they’ll get the right person. So whilst it is frustrating, it’s also kind of genius. It’s like if someone came up to you and said “I’m going to con you out of thousands of pounds with a card trick” and being so masterful and charismatic that they manage to do it anyway even though you’re aware it’s coming.

Rarely has a film put you in the shoes of the characters as well as this. That frustration and annoyance when they don’t find their man? That’s felt by both the characters and the audience. The most frustrating part is the truth of the result. We’re used to police on-screen solving crimes and finding the person responsible, and it gives people a false sense of security that if something does happen to them, they’ll be brought to justice. That’s not just a pithy comment from me by the way, the way that television depicts forensic investigation has led to issues with juries overestimating how precise it is, to the detriment of justice. To know that THIS, this is how a lot of these investigations end is heartbreaking. It’s not just the fact it’s unsolved, but the sheer brutality of the murder makes it difficult to forget. It’s actually a really well-filmed murder. Far too many films about young women being murdered manage to make the murder uncomfortable but for the wrong reasons. They’re usually not uncomfortable because of the senseless death of a person, but because of the weird sexualisation of the murder; a young woman moaning when she’s penetrated by a more dominant male who is taking pleasure in his act. That happens far too often and it’s fucking weird. And those which aren’t sexualised are filmed in a way that either glorifies it or seems a bit gratuitous. The way it’s done in The Night Of The 12th is shocking; someone just walks up to her, throws fluid on her and sets fire to her. There’s no glamour, no sense that this is “cool”, it’s horrific, it’s unsettling, and it’s exactly how it should be.

None of this would matter at all if the performances weren’t up to par. There are not many performers who are that well known in the English-speaking world, but like all good subtitled films, eventually you forget it’s subtitled and just enjoy. Its weird, I can almost hear the dialogue, but I hear it in English.

Like all non-English/American films, there are a few cultural differences you need to get used to, but nothing too extreme that you’ll be lost. The cinematic language is slightly different from what you’ll be used to, but you’ll still be able to follow it, Dominik Moll does such a good job with the visual storytelling that even if you sit back in your chair and are unable to see the subtitles you’ll still be able to get a good indication of what is happening.

Now onto the downside; it’s almost two hours long and I don’t think it needs to be. The cycling sequences are there for a reason (to show the stress etc that the character is under) but they are a bit too long and repetitive, staying long past the point that they’re necessary. There is quite a jarring time-skip as well. Once you’re resettled in the new timeline it makes sense, but it just happens like a normal scene transition; should have been handled much better. It also provides slightly too much characterisation. That’s a weird thing to say, I know. But there are multiple instances of things mentioned, in a way that you think means they will be relevant later, that is never really raised again. It’s like Chekov’s Gun but if it misfires and shoots the walls.

Overall, an incredibly fascinating watch, but not an easy one. Plus, let’s face it, the lack of a conclusion will frustrate some.

John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023) Review

Quick synopsis: Man still can’t get over the death of his dog

As a professional and respected reviewer, it’s important to remain impartial and not allow personal opinions and thoughts to influence what you write.

But I’m not respected, or professional, so fuck all y’all I can be as biased as I like. I was into this from the first trailer. (Note, only just realised I used a really similar opening to my review of the third one, weird).

Actually, I was into it from the teaser, which they used to announce it was delayed by a year. The actual trailer could have just been the words “Donny Yen is in this” and I would have known I wanted to see it because he’s amazing. His character doesn’t fully let loose in this on account of being blind, but he still performs some incredibly creative action set pieces. The fight between Caine and Wick is a great piece of not only action but also character work. That brings me to one of the criticisms of Chapter 4: It’s lacking a central “wow” scene. The action scenes are good, but there’s not one that you can look at and say “Okay, even if you don’t watch the film, watch this one scene”. It is also a little too long, but I’m not sure what can be cut out. Everything is needed (except maybe the part in the desert at the start), and even if you don’t realise it, there’s A LOT of world-building in this. Some might say too much; there were a few characters I thought “Oh, I can’t remember who that person is” who it turned out weren’t in any of the previous films. That only happens occasionally though, for the most part, you can figure out what’s happening just by paying attention. Wait, hold on a second

*checks old review and finds this*

“There’s so much that goes unsaid about the universe but is just implied and shown, it really sets it up as a universe which actually exists, and also means you have to be paying attention to everything. You actively engage with the films because you have to, you can’t just sit back and dip and out”

Huh, weird. For a series that constantly reinvents itself I do repeat my thoughts on it a lot. Although the review of the third one has reminded me of this: there’s a distinct lack of Anjelica Huston in this. It does have a good amount of Rina Sawayama in it, which is an upside. One of her songs plays over the closing credits and it will be a great loss if she’s not approached to do a Bond theme one day.

This is a fitting end to the franchise, well, the main series anyway as there is still a spin-off film out next year starring Ana De Armas (best known from Knives Out), plus a prequel TV series. It ends the only way this franchise could end, and it’s beautiful. There are talks of a sequel because of how well this did, but the only way that could work would be if it’s actually a prequel, or if it focused on different characters.

I would definitely want a comic book explaining the world more though, I feel there are a lot of subtle things I missed.

That previous paragraph would have made an apt way to end this review. Nope, I’m continuing.

Can we just appreciate how good Keanu is in this? He only speaks 380 words over the whole film, but you don’t notice. You never sit there thinking “I wish he could speak more”, he speaks when he needs to. Plus his physical performance is as good as it has been throughout this franchise. Chapter 4 probably has the best ensemble cast of the franchise. Shamier Anderson, Clancy Brown etc all slot into this world seamlessly. Skarsgard does too, and his arc over the course of Chapter 4 is fascinating to watch play out, especially when you think about it and wonder if the High Table thought he would fail and gave him the resources needed to hang himself.

That’s why I love this franchise, they’re not just the best action movies of the last decade, they also inspire a lot of conversation, but not in a “wait, what the hell actually happened?” way. They inspire debate and passion, and the world is a better place because these films are in them.

Shazam! Fury Of The Gods (2023) Review

Quick synopsis: After the events of the first film, Billy Batson lives with his super-powered siblings, then shit goes down due to Helen Mirren using a magic tree.

Before talking about Shazam! Fury Of The Gods (or FOTG, pronounced Phottog), I’m going to start talking about a subject I don’t often delve into; sports. You occasionally get times towards the end of the season when teams have nothing else to play for. From the fans to players and to the owners, everybody knows that what is about to happen is not important, so they don’t really pay much attention to it. It makes sense, it’s difficult to convince yourself to be invested in something when you know it doesn’t matter (that’s why nobody pays attention to any of my opinions). Fury Of The Gods has a similar problem, it’s hard to get invested in it when there’s a small part of you thinking “This is the last film with this character”. Nobody knows the future of the DC Universe, and Warner Bros are at the point where even “this film has been advertised and is in post-production” won’t stop them from cancelling a movie (RIP Batgirl, damn I wish I could see that movie). There’s no plan, everything seems to be decided on a whim, which causes a problem with audiences. The big problem is; Audiences don’t trust DC any more. There’s no excitement for the Flash movie, despite the fact it features the return of Keaton as Batman. This should be a big deal, but people are so jaded with DC at the moment that it doesn’t matter (doesn’t help that Ezra Miller is a prick). So how is that relevant to this? Well, it’s the only reason I can think of for the lacklustre box office. If you enjoyed the first one, you’d enjoy this. It’s tonally very similar to the first one; with a mix of genuine emotion and innocent humour of a kind you can only get away with if you have a character like this. Weirdly, and I am aware this may be sacrilege, the worst casting decision in this is Helen Mirren. She is a fantastic actress, and she does it well, but she’s just quite right for the character, especially compared to the other two. Lucy Liu, everybody knows what she’s capable of, and while it’s a shame she’s not given more to do physically, she has just enough to do for it to work. The best new cast addition is Rachel Zegler. Zegler is in a weird position because she has only had one film credit before this, so a small part of you considers her inexperienced and new. But that one role? Maria in West Side Story. So you go in with high expectations of her, whilst still being unsure of what she can bring. She brings everything, her character’s true motives are a bit too obvious to anybody who has ever seen a movie before, but she performs it so damn well that you don’t care.

That predictability is one of the weakest parts of FOTG, it doesn’t feel like it’s bringing anything new to the table. There are moments where it does look like it can, the opening attack on the Acropolis wouldn’t look out of place in a horror movie and really sets up the villains as a force to be reckoned with. Sadly, the villains then fall victim to the standard action movie trope of being able to wipe out hundreds of named characters immediately, but have to get close and get a direct hit to even damage a named character. There’s another scene where a teacher is compelled to step off a high building to their death, which is terrifying, and not really used again. The other weak part if the ass-pull at the end, where a certain superhero cameos to fix a problem that comes up, then leaves. This person shows up with the smallest amount of foreshadowing possible, with no indication of how she got there or how she knows to fix the problem, or even if she knew what the problem was.

On the plus side, there are things FOTG does a lot better than its predecessor. The relationship between Billy and his family is more developed in this. The family members themselves are also given a lot more to do. Darla, especially, now has enough about her that a spin-off is not completely out of the question. I mean, it’s not likely, but it would be fun to see. That’s kind of this film in a nutshell; not essential, but a lot of fun. I hope this isn’t the final outing for Levi as this character as he is damn near perfect in the role, I doubt they’ll find anybody better.

Dungeons And Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023) Review

Quick Synopsis: A ragtag group of misfits go on a fetch quest.

Dungeons And Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (or to give it the title it should have if it’s spelt correctly: Dungeons And Dragon: Honour Among Thieves. Or as a shorter title: DADHAT) is actually the fourth Dungeons And Dragons movie, the previous ones starring Jeremy Irons, Marlon Wayans, and Thora Birch. Well, I say “previous ones”, they were all in the first one. The other two feature actors who are…..not as well known, and were released straight to DVD. So it’s fair to say expectations for this were not exactly what you’d call sky-high. Added to that, it was originally scheduled for release back in 2021, and a film being delayed by almost 2 years is never a good sign (for evidence of this: New Mutants, Morbius, and countless more). There’s not even a huge star to anchor this. Chris Pine is a good actor, sure, but he’s not at the level where members of the general public who don’t often go to the cinema will pay to see a film because he’s in it. So is there any hope for this film at all?

Turns out there is. Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley (who previously directed the supremely underrated Game Night) used a sneaky trick which I suspect may help this film turn a profit. A devious and sneaky trick which other studios may want to pick up on; they made a good film. I’m surprised more studios don’t do that tbh, it could become a trend. In fact, I’m hoping it does.

Now I’m not saying this is a great film, but it is definitely better than it needs to be. There’s a scene where a shapeshifter runs through a building and outside to her friends, they could have done this in any manner of ways to make their job easier. Instead; it’s one long continuous shot. That was completely unnecessary, nobody would have criticised it for going slightly cheaper by having the transformations happen off-screen (so a mouse runs behind a curtain, a tiger runs out etc), or even if they only did two transformations. Instead, it’s like the directors WANTED to make things difficult for themselves, and I admire that.

It’s moments like that that make you realise that DADHAT was made by people who actually gave a shit about what they were making. This extends to the performance too; Daisy Head (daughter of English Vampire/Richmond FC botherer Anthony Head, not relevant, but I only just discovered that and wanted to share it) spends most of the film with more make-up than [insert name of a woman that the internet has decided it hates now] and is still giving it everything. Hugh Grant is clearly in the “shits and giggles” stage of his career. It’s said that some struggling actors base decisions on what will allow them to eat that month. Hugh Grant definitely does that, only the thing he eats is the scenery, which he chews like you would not believe. It’s amazing to watch and gives you the impression that everyone on set was having a lot of fun. The chemistry between the cast will make you think they’ve all worked together as an ensemble (as opposed to working individually as ensembles obviously) multiple times. Some of the performers you will know; Hugh Grant, Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, even Bradley Cooper makes a random appearance. But the “new” performers more than earn their spot. Rege-Jean Page makes the journey from Bridgerton to Tonnes-Of-Bridges with ease. I wouldn’t say he’s the best performer, but he has such a magnificent screen presence that if a movie studio had any brains they’d sign him to lead a franchise. Justice Smith continues to be an entertaining presence (as he was in Detective Pikachu). My personal favourite is Sophia Lillis (best known from IT, Sharp Objects, and I Am Not Okay With This). Her performance as Doric is a delight to watch and I hope leads to even more for her in the future.

So what stops me from enjoying this even more? Because there are a few things it does badly. It’s difficult to take the threat seriously, because at times it feels like the characters aren’t. They do show fear when directly facing an enemy, and they do talk about their worries, but they also spend too much time making jokes about the situation they’re in. So because the characters don’t take it seriously, the audience doesn’t either, so there’s no tension. The attempt at emotion doesn’t really ring true. Finally, the “final boss” so to speak isn’t pushed as a big threat either, she barely gets a chance to flex her villainous muscles before she’s defeated.

Wait, underwhelming villain, tonally inappropriate jokes, zero tension, CGI Bradley Cooper, a final battle that is just CGI, and a lead actor called Chris. Is DADHAT part of the MCU?

Champions (2023) Review

Quick Synopsis: Marcus (Woody Harrelson) gets fired from his job as an assistant coach for physically abusing his manager, and things get worse when he gets caught drunk driving. He gets sentenced to community service, coaching a basketball team with intellectual disabilities.

It’s often said that a film is “made” by its cast, which is definitely the case here. With a different cast, Champions would be a terrible experience with a dated 80s feel. The simple thing the film does? It actually casts people with intellectual disabilities. It’s surprising how often stuff like that doesn’t happen and the studio decision is just “just put a guy in there and have him pull a funny face”. Out of the basketball team members; Madison Tevlin shines above everyone else, with an incredible screen presence to watch unfold.

Even without considering that, the film is a pleasant watch. It’s a cliché plot that only throws up a few small curveballs. To be honest, a sudden swerve would have ruined this. The charm of Champions is not from the plot, it’s from the characters, and those characters are likeable. Harrelson isn’t exactly stretching his limits as a performer, but he does what he needs to.

Whilst I was watching this I had two thoughts: 1) That guy over there keeps checking his emails on his watch, and I hope it’s an early design that has a flaw which causes it to give the wearer an electric shock if they keep using it, prick. 2) This feels incredibly American. Which is why it was such a surprise that it was based on a Spanish film (also called Champions). A genuine surprise, so much of it felt American, except maybe the end, which is more like Rocky than most sports films.

The whole film is so easy to enjoy and smile at, so why has it taken so long for me to review it? Because whilst it is charming, it is funny, it is full of joy, and it has heart, it is also lacking that extra something to make it stand out among the crowd. There are not many moments which stick with you, not enough to recommend this film over the hundreds of films which tackle similar subjects. It does show potential though. There’s a moment where Marcus finds out why one of his players (Darius) won’t play for him. Darius was left with brain damage after being in an incident involving a drunk driver, the reason Marcus has to coach this team? He was sentenced for drunk driving. That’s why Darius doesn’t trust him, he doesn’t want to follow the instructions of someone who could have done the thing that he did. It’s a brilliant piece of character storytelling, but it is also one that only affects the moments that reference it, it doesn’t organically feel part of this world, and if it was excised it wouldn’t leave a narrative hole that needed plugging (speaking of holes that need plugging: sexual joke). I wish it led to a bigger moment, I wish it was a large part of this, a defining part of the narrative. But as it is, it’s just a small section in a puzzle with too many pieces. I will commend Champions for having one different moment: when Marcus is hired by an NBA team it causes the inevitable schism, usually, that’s the moment which leads to the third act reconciliation. It looks like that might happen here, but then it’s forgotten when a bigger issue arises. If it carried that aversion to tropes throughout, it would have been a better film. But as it is, this is too predictable and safe to be considered anything better than good. I really did enjoy it, Champions is very difficult to dislike. But I don’t think I will ever need to see it again. I’m glad I watched it, and I don’t regret it. But it’s only ever “good”. Which is a shame.

Air (2023) Review

Quick Synopsis: It’s the 80s (in the film, not now, obviously) and Nike’s basketball shoe division is flailing, when one guy makes a decision: throw everything they can on signing the rights to create shoes for a young Michael Jordan.

I’ll get the big thing out of the way first: Michael Jordan isn’t in this. Well, he technically is, but mainly out of focus or shot from behind, I’m not even aware of the character having any lines. It kind of works though, he’s supposed to be “above” everybody, so having him as this unseen presence makes him feel bigger and more important. If you actually saw the character and he was underwhelming, it would underwhelm the whole premise. It is a decision that does risk annoying some people, and hasn’t gone down well with some reviewers, but like I said, for me, it works. You don’t really miss him as a character, and there are only a few scenes where it’s obvious that they’re deliberately not showing him.

With no Jordan, it’s left to others to pick up the mantle: the employees of the Nike basketball division, Michael Jordan’s family, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (middle eastern geography joke!). The ensemble cast is like a dream team of “I like them, but to be honest I wouldn’t be surprised if they turned out to be a massive dick” (with the exception of Viola Davis who is genuinely one of the best performers in the world at the moment). Nobody is really testing their acting abilities here, everybody is playing a character similar to what they would play in almost anything else. Ben Affleck plays a Shouty Man who remembers where he came from, Matt Damon plays his friend who is idealistic, and Jason Bateman plays someone who is sarcastic. I mean, they do their jobs well, so it’s hard to find fault with that, but you don’t come out of this particularly impressed with any of them? The characters? Yes, very well written, which is a good thing as the film would fall apart without that. Let’s face it, it’s not as though Air can depend on the plot to carry it. I’m not saying the plot is bad, but it’s a foregone conclusion so it does lack the suspense that audiences may want. Face facts, nobody is watching this film thinking “Oh no, I wonder whether these *checks notes* Air Jordan shoes will ever get made? I just don’t know. Also, why am I carrying notes in a movie theatre? And how am I able to read them so clearly in a dark room?”. In a lesser film that lack of suspense would harm it, but in this it’s oddly not an issue. That’s probably because of how good the writing is, it’s fascinating to watch everything play out.

Despite the fact it is a Ben Affleck movie, it doesn’t really feel like his previous work, for one thing, there’s no crime. Still a lot of swearing though, a distracting amount at times. Mostly it’s okay and makes sense in the scene and for the characters, but there are a few times where it feels a bit gratuitous, which is a shame as mostly the dialogue is incredible. The dialogue is so good that it feels like it hasn’t been written. All of it is so natural and effortless that if someone told me it was ad-libbed I’d believe them.

The other thing to appreciate is the pacing. It’s almost 2 hours long, but you’d never guess. There are no moments where you sit there looking at your watch wondering when it’s going to be over. The whole thing is so quick that it feels over quicker than my interest in watching an actual game of basketball. It is weird to watch a film where Nike is pitched as a plucky underdog though.

I’m going to end this with a positive. There’s a scene in this where Damon’s character is telling Jordan’s parents about how the career of Jordan will go. It’s an incredibly powerful piece of writing talking about how the public reacts to fame; how they build people up into an impossible ideal and then criticise them for not being able to live up to it. It’s intercut with high (and low)lights from his life; his career, his playing basketball, and his father’s death (although it is weird that this is the only reference the film makes to that, with it being curiously missing from the “what happened next” montage at the end). It is one of the best scenes I’ve ever seen, but it does make the rest of the film seem worse by comparison, which is a shame.

So in summary, go see this. It’s not likely to end up on any “best of” lists at the end of the year, but it will be one you’ll think warm thoughts of if you see it mentioned. It’s one you’ll definitely think of buying if you see it cheap enough, and if it’s on netflix, it’s getting watched.

Rye Lane (2023) Review

Quick Synopsis: Following two youngsters reeling from bad breakups who connect over a particularly eventful day in South London.

I like a good rom-com, mainly because they contain two of my favourite things: likeable characters, and good dialogue. My issue is, that a lot of them aren’t good, they’re too trope-ey and dull to really be memorable. It feels like the genre is overpopulated by films displaying a complete lack of effort, as if the genre is an excuse to be lazy because “well it’s just a rom-com, it doesn’t need to be too new”. It’s why it’s such a shock to find something genuinely fresh and exciting like Rye Lane is. Raine Allen-Miller could potentially be one of the great directors of the future. I mean, THIS is her debut. She displays more creativity with her shots here than 90% of directors would. From the use of different lenses, to Peep Show style POV shots, there’s a lot of creativity in Rye Lane which means that as a filmmaker it’s a fascinating watch. Her aptitude is backed up by the performances of Vivian Oparah (who you might know from the Doctor Who spin-off Class) and David Jonsson (who you might know from the HBO/BBC series Industry). There are other actors in this, but they mostly float in and out of the narrative, it is anchored around the characters of Yas and Dom. If Oparah and Jonsson miss a step then the film falls apart. That is also true of how the characters are written, you should actually want these characters to be together (the fact that the characters made each other worse when they were with each other was a big reason why I wasn’t a fan of Licorice Pizza, that and the whole HE’S FIFTEEN!). Yas and Dom are likeable characters, it’s easy to see a small bit of yourself in their awkwardness and faux confidence. It’s helped by the natural chemistry between Jonsson and Oparah. They perform together like they’ve worked together multiple times, bouncing off each other with ease.

Now onto the downside, the visual style may not be for everyone, personally, I loved it but I am aware it is an acquired taste. And whilst it hits most of the romcom tropes in a decent enough manner, the traditional “fall-out and argument in the final third” falls a little flat. They’re hard to do anyway because 90% of the time it’s just someone going “let me explain” and then not explaining. The argument needs to be big enough to make it believable that they might not end up together at the end of the film (à la Chasing Amy, spoilers for a 26-year-old film btw), but not so big that it would demean one of the characters if the relationship was restarted (“yes, he shot my family, but we only have 5 minutes left in the film so I think we need to get back together”). It’s a tricky tightrope to tiptoe down and Rye Lane doesn’t quite manage it. It feels too small, I was so into the relationship that I didn’t really buy that something like that would keep them apart. The “grand gesture to win them back” at the end felt relatively small too. So really my main problems with this film all revolve around the ending, and it’s not even necessarily bad, but it is slightly flat compared to how great the rest of the film is.

In summary, a very good film, but I’ll be very disappointed if this turns out to be the high point in the careers of everyone involved. This could end up being mentioned in a future review of one of my favourite films I see, in much the same way as my mention of how good McKenna Grace was in Gifted means I can now be like “hah, I told you she’d be amazing” now that everybody else is finally realising how damn good she is. If you get a chance, go see this, inventive romcoms deserve to be seen, plus, the mere existence of this film REALLY annoys racist dickheads, which is always fun.