Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022)

Quick synopsis: When an interdimensional rupture unravels reality, an unlikely hero must channel her newfound powers to fight bizarre and bewildering dangers from the multiverse as the fate of the world hangs in the balance.

This is a really hard review to write. It’s difficult to put into words exactly how I feel about this film, and what it means to me. I’ll try:

It’s a cunting masterpiece.

Crude, yes. But “masterpiece” does not do justice. “motherfucking masterpiece” also doesn’t seem strong enough to demonstrate my feelings for this. It’s astounding, a work of art. This is one of the best things I’ve ever witnessed. Sometimes my end of year awards are difficult. Last year, for example, it was genuinely difficult to decide between Mouthpiece and Come True for best film. Quite a few were similarly difficult. I’m saying this now, this will be nominated for A LOT in the end of year reviews, and will win a lot of them. It’s already pretty much a dead cert for best film. It’s over two and a half hours long, and my first thought when I left the cinema was “I can’t wait to see this again”.

Directed by duo called Daniels (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), who have a big history in music videos. You can tell this with how they direct some of the action sequences, there’s a flow to them which works perfectly. It’s not just “sound playing alongside music”, it’s part of the film. It works alongside the images to create a collective whole vision (apart from the scenes with the bagel, then it’s a hole vision. You know, because a bagel has a hole in it). The only feature film they’ve created before this was Swiss Army Man, which I’m yet to see but I’ve heard it’s very strange.

Now I’ve seen this, I can believe it. The story is weird, and there’s a strong sense of “look, just go with it” throughout the whole thing. But it actually makes sense, in a weird way. It’s written and directed in a way that even when it does go completely off the rails, you are able to follow it. Don’t know if you saw Mad Max: Fury Road, but that managed to do something great in that it was full of action, but because the action was nearly always in the centre of the frame, no matter how chaotic it got, you were able to follow it. This does the narrative equivalent of that and I love it so much.

All the performances are on point. Michelle Yeoh continues to be one of the greatest physical performers in the world today, she must be a dream for choreographers to work with as they don’t need to set up cameras so they can film each bit individually and edit them together. They can just set a camera up and let her do her thing. Her role was originally supposed to go to Jackie Chan, and that would have worked, but it would have been different. I’m not sure it would have been quite as good. The mother/daughter relationship is key to this film working, and I’m not sure it would have worked quite as well with a father/daughter one.

Speaking of the daughter, Stephanie Hsu absolutely nails the performance. Giving her the right amount of rebellion and need for acceptance. Certain plot points could you make you dislike her, but she’s played with enough vulnerability that you want what’s best for, while also recognising when she does awful things. Originally it was going to be Awkwafina. Now, I LOVE Awkwafina, she’s often the best part about most things she stars in. But again, I think it’s best it wasn’t her. I don’t think she would have been as effective as Hsu is.

It’s also good to see Ke Huy Quan back, best known for his role as Short Round in the Indiana Jones movies. Hopefully, this leads to a career resurgence for him as he has a really difficult role in this, it’s both physical and emotional. He has to make you believe he can beat the crap out of you, but also make you believe he’s the kindest, meekest person on the planet. He manages this, he’s talented enough that you can tell which universes version of him he’s currently playing, just by his body language. In a lesser film it would be the best performance, in this, he’s just a VERY VERY good part of an excellent ensemble.

As you can guess. I loved this. It had everything I want. It had laughs, it had heart (I heard genuine tears from fellow audience members many times), it had character, it had meta references, it had action, it had fingers made of hot dogs, it had a dildo being used as a weapon, it had glitter, it had bondage, it had pizza, it had Jenny Slate, it had Jamie Lee Curtis, it had a racoon controlling someone, it has despair, it has hope, it has everything.

Everywhere

All at once.

Studio 666 (2022)

Quick synopsis: The Foo Fighters move into a mansion steeped in grisly rock ‘n’ roll history to record an album. Spooky shit happens.

Horror is a strange genre, it’s incredibly self-referential and is a genre that really rewards people who are familiar with it. You occasionally get that with comedy as well, but not so much. And very rarely happens with dramas, you don’t often get homages to A Star Is Born in West Side Story, for example. But it’s encouraged in horror, and it can be a lot of fun.

This is definitely a film which rewards you if you’re a fan of the genre. It has so many references to old horror movies. Some might be accidental (is someone hanging themselves and crashing through a window a reference to The Omen or just a good visual?), but some definitely aren’t. The whole thing looks like it was a lot of fun to make.

Horror is a director’s medium, and you’d be forgiven for going into this with trepidation. Not just because it stars musicians, but the director (BJ McDonnell) has a history in documentaries and music videos, with his only horror directorial credit being Hatchet 3 back in 2013. He does a really good job here. There are issues with this film, but almost none of them are due to the directing. He has a great sense of when to use silence, and when to amp up the noise. This is actually a really solid film, much more so than the only film I can really compare it to, Punk Rock Holocaust, which you can really only enjoy if you’re a fan of the musicians involved. I’m not that big a fan of Foo Fighters tbh, I’ve liked some of their songs, but never really felt that appreciation for them over a whole album. Despite that, I still liked this film. Fans of the Foo Fighters will get a lot more out of it, but even those who don’t will still find a lot to enjoy about it, maybe not if they didn’t like horror films, actually definitely not if they don’t enjoy horror films.

Now onto the bad. It’s a bit weird they all know of Dream Widow (the band who all died at the start) but don’t know that they’re currently recording in the house they died in. Fans of Nirvana would know if they were recording in the house Kurt Cobain died in. Plus, let’s face it, if they were really touted as the next big thing, then that house wouldn’t be abandoned, it would be a tourist spot.

It tries to play off “Dave Grohl is the killer” as a reveal, but we already knew that, it was very obvious. In fact, most of the supposed twists were really obvious, to the point where they aren’t really twists. I mean, their manager said “oh, you want a place? I’ll find you a place”, makes a phone call to someone and says “send them there”, he obviously knows about the possessions etc. It’s weird the film treats us like we don’t. Also, the manager should have been in it more. He only appears at the beginning and the end. He should have been seen in cutaways during the film, phoning up the band to check on their progress.

The performances are pretty good throughout. Nothing special but not really many too awful. Considering most people in the film are musicians, it’s weird that the worst performer is Whitney Cummings, who has acting experience. It’s only really her performance that takes you out of the film. Well, that and some of the cameos, appreciated as they were. I mean, it was cool to see John Carpenter on film, he did a cracking job on the soundtrack btw, the music is creepy as hell. Very cool.

So in summary, quite good, but does feel like it’s a horror designed to be watched with friends while drinking rather than watching alone in the dark whilst terrified.

Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness (2022)

Quick synopsis: It’s a Marvel film. Obviously, you’re not going into this for the plot.

I’m going to say this at the start: I thoroughly enjoyed this. I appreciated what it did with some of the characters, it’s probably the best-directed film in the MCU, and it managed to take a difficult concept and make it simple enough for everybody to understand (yet also feel smart for understanding it). I say that now, because a lot of this review will consist of me pointing out the negatives.

The big one, the MCU has a problem. It’s no longer exciting when an unexpected character appears. Because we’ve now come to expect it, you go in with the knowledge that anybody can appear. So there’s a small part in your brain going “well maybe the Fantastic Four will turn up, maybe the X-men will be in this” so when characters do appear, you’re not surprised because a part of you expected it. There are times they have managed to surprise you (Ben Kingsley in Shang-Chi being the obvious one) but mostly it’s just “I knew it!”. There are a few that people have been speculating would be there since Endgame.

Where this becomes an issue is that this seems to be what the MCU have anchored their films around, when No Way Home is discussed it’s usually about the subject of the other Peter Parkers (and the fact they only included movie ones is a huge missed opportunity and made it feel like a film, including random ones we’ve never seen before would have helped it). It reminds me of when Ricky Gervais made Extras and it became about who the celebrity cameo was, rather than the story.

It’s a shame as that does a disservice to this, Scarlet Witch is a fantastic villain, and I appreciate that they rushed into that at the start of the film rather than revealing it near the end. I mean, it is a bit weird that the most powerful villain of the MCU so far has only really lasted one film. Her face turn at the ends makes it highly unlikely that she’s going to be the next Big Bad of the franchise. Which is a shame as that would have been interesting. They would have to fight someone who they’ve been friends with, someone who knows their weaknesses and fears, and can use that against them. More importantly it would have made it seem like the MCU has a plan, the new introductions are because Wanda never met them so she doesn’t know how to defeat them, and Thors arc lately has been about facing his fears, which he’d have to do. It would also make it seem like those weird scenes in Age Of Ultron had a point. As it is, the overall plan for the MCU seems to be “more people! Each more powerful than the last” and it’s getting unfocused and incredibly bloated (unpopular opinion, but major MCU characters HAVE to start dying. Properly dying, not “dead but can come back due to multiverse”).

The biggest issue? It’s a 12a. It should be a 15. This is the closest the franchise has got to a horror movie, and it feels slightly neutered by its age rating. The scene with the Illuminati is horrifying, but if it was a 15 then it could have gone slightly further with some of the moments, make it truly disturbing.

I said earlier that it’s the best-directed of the franchise so far. I stand by that, it has some incredibly creative set-pieces, having moments which could only happen with this character. It absolutely nails the large set-pieces in a way that truly deserves the big screen. On the other hand, there are a few one on one fistfights, and they’re not done well. They look clunky and full, overchoreographed and edited in a way that distracts from the action rather than adds to it.

On the plus side, they have finally fixed their third-act problem that has plagued a lot of their films lately (Shang-Chi in particular had a huge drop in quality for the final section). The final section for this is actually entertaining and creative as hell. The downside is it’s when the offscreen inertia is most obvious. Characters don’t seem to do anything when the camera is not focused on them. The film cuts away from someone in the middle of doing something, they’ll be a big action set piece that lasts about 10 minutes, then when it goes back to them, they’re still doing the thing. It’s weird and makes it seem like something was ruined in the editing suite.

So yeah, if you like the MCU, go see this. If you don’t, this isn’t going to change your mind. It’s one of the most unique MCU films so far, but that’s not saying much lately.

Oh, also the last scene is bad. Just bad.

Zero Fucks Given aka Rien à foutre (2021)

Quick synopsis: A tale of a flight attendant on a low-cost airline dealing with idiot customers, senseless management, and the death of her mother.

I’m going to get it out of the way, this is frustratingly uneven. There are moments of greatness, and then moments where it feels like it’s just treading water. When she’s on the plane it’s engrossing, entertaining, and horrifying in how people treat staff they see as “below them”, yet when she steps away from that, the film loses something.

It’s weirdly ironic as that’s one of the central points of the film: that she has no identity outside of her job. It’s very reminiscent of Sweat in terms of how the character feels she has no personality outside of what she portrays to the world, she is not an independent person, but someone who is to be moulded and shaped as her audience wants.

There are a few missteps in the opening. She’s in a meeting at work and being told they’re now being measured on individual sales rather than as a group. You’d think this would lead to the staff being very cut-throat in terms of stealing sales opportunities from each other, but it doesn’t. It’s a missed opportunity. Her next shift is just a standard one, and then she goes drinking. Personally, I think if we were shown her being hypercompetent, a real genius at her job, or stressed out and near breaking point, that would have made the transition to drinks and drugs in the next scene a better contrast.

On the subject of alcohol, the drunken conversations are terrible, but in a good way. Drunk people don’t make sense, they ramble, and they say stupid shit. They swerve from topic to topic like a drunk driver. Usually, when films show drunk dialogue, they do it by just having them slur their words a bit while expressing their true feelings, so it’s good they did something different here. It’s without a doubt among the most realistic drunk dialogue I’ve seen on screen.

The dynamic changes when she’s told her job is no longer needed, and she’s being put forward for another one which she’ll need training for. Maybe it should have started here as that section is one of the most telling moments of the sheer hell the staff have to go through. It’s said out loud there that they’re not human, they’re just smiling faces whose job is not to help the customer, but to sell stuff. It’s remarkably dehumanising, and if this was shown earlier in the film it would have improved it. There’s a moment where her manager is yelling at her because she’s not downrating her crew for things beyond their control, anybody who has worked in retail or customer service feels that pain.

As good as some of the dialogue is, as interesting as the story is at times, and as stunningly beautiful it looks at times, Adèle Exarchopoulos is the definite highlight. When she’s on screen it feels like the weight of the world is on her shoulders. She’s probably best known over here from Blue Is The Warmest Colour, which is great but she doesn’t have pleasant memories of, due to the director being a, let’s put this diplomatically, a complete prick. Hopefully, this becomes her stand-out film, she deserves a film that the western world adores and that she doesn’t have negative feelings attached to. It is a good film, and definitely worth a watch, I just feel it could have been slightly better.

Umma (2022)

Synopsis: A woman’s quiet life on an American farm takes a terrifying turn when the remains of her estranged mother arrive from Korea.

It’s been a few days since I’ve seen this film, and it now annoys me that I saw it. Not because it’s bad, or offensive etc. It annoys me because this is the directorial debut of Iris K.Shim (at least in terms of feature lengths). Such a shame because I wanted to delve into her back catalogue, where I’d be sure to find a hidden gem. It is only 83 minutes long, once you take out credits you’re looking at about 75 I’d guess. So it’s not much to base it on, but she does enough in that short time to show just what she’s capable of.

She gets what makes a horror movie work. It’s not enough to have bad things happen to the characters. We need to actually give a shit about the people. That’s often where long-running horror franchises go wrong, they focus more on the villain (Freddy, Michael Myers etc) and leave everybody else underdeveloped, so we end up cheering the killer, because they’re the only defined character in it. Compare that to the first Nightmare movie, where Nancy was a bigger part of it, we supported her, we wanted her to survive and when she panicked, we were scared. It’s amazing how likeable characters make a horror movie actually scary. This does a good job of making us care about everyone. Key to this is that they don’t feel like characters in a horror movie, they feel like characters who a horror movie happens to. So it all feels more real. We don’t judge them based on “but you’re in a horror movie, why would you do that?”, we judge them based on reality.

It also does a good job of setting the character dynamics. Sandra Oh’s character (Amanda) feels her mother was overbearing and she wants to get free of her, meanwhile she’s annoyed her daughter wants to live her own life, and she’s fully unaware of the irony of those two conflicting beliefs. That’s what drives this movie, it’s not “spooky spooky ghost ghost”, it’s “character realises they’re turning into what they hate, and they need to stop repeating the cycles of abuse and neglect”. She is slightly like her mother too, just in different ways. Her mother was an abusive asshole, whereas she’s more ignorant of how the choices she makes effects her daughter, who doesn’t really have any friends, and is guilt-tripped into staying and helping the business. You feel the daughters isolation, and the pain it causes her. But you also understand Amanda doing what she does. It’s a film that inspires conversation about what should be done.

The relationship between Amanda and her deceased mother is key to the film working too. Even though there’s a history of abuse, you can still feel the connection between the two, the warmth in her eyes when Amanda talks of the stuff handed down to her is genuine and shows that even though she was abused by her mother, and has escaped, she still feels a blood connection to her which makes it hard for her to completely escape from under her shadow and influence. This is backed up by when a relative tells her “The doctors say it was a heart attack, but I know it was your fault that she died” The speech that follows about how she’s useless and a disgrace for leaving her mother is astounding in a “okay and see why she’s the way she is”, it completely explains her motivations and personality. So well done, in a kind of horrifying if you think about it way.

Now onto the negative. Some of the jump scares are a bit too corny to work. It’s weird to have a really dramatic, well-written character exploration in a story of inherited trauma and abuse, and then have the line “I’ll show you a burial” and someone being dragged by a piece of clothing. Weirdly enough, the moments which are explicitly horror are the weakest parts. But part of that might be because of how expertly done the other parts were. In a lesser movie, they’d be the highlight. But that’s not the point, it’s not a “oh no jump out seat” horror, it’s a slowburner of a story, one that you can almost imagine being told by a campfire late at night, or as a morality tale to kids.

This has got some very negative reviews, and I feel that’s unfair. It’s a solid 6.9/10. Not great, but a good time-passer and not something I’d actively avoid if I was in the room while it was on TV. There will be better horror films this year, but it’s going to be difficult to have one with characters as well-written as they are in this.

The Outfit (2022)

Quick synopsis: Leonard (Mark Rylance) runs a suit shop in Chicago, one night the local mob hide their money in his shop, leading to problems.

While watching this, I was overcome by one consistent thought: They should have cast Mark Rylance in the Kingsman prequel. Should state though, despite the trailer, and the general feeling it gives you, this isn’t much like Kingsman, it’s more like The Drop, but not as good. And that immediately is the biggest problem. This is a shame as it’s otherwise a fine film.

I will admit that tonally it’s weird. It’s mostly locked in one building so it’s kind of intense and trapped, but then it has moments where it’s just two people talking slowly about how jeans won’t last and all that tension has gone. It’s frustrating as it has the potential to be good, and at times it is brilliant, but the whole thing feels like it’s moving at 80% speed. It feels like it belongs more on the stage than on screen.

This is Graham Moore’s directorial debut, he’s previously known for writing The Imitation Game. He does a good job in terms of laying out the shots, you never feel visually confused. It’s difficult to plan out a film like this because there are things which aren’t relevant until near the end of the film, yet you need to make sure they’re set up in the room before then.

He could have done a slightly better job of ramping up the tension, and the world-building feels a little weak. It kind of feels like this is more the DLC to another film’s main game. Like there are interesting dynamics and characters that are all taking place in this universe, but not on the screen, and not to these characters.

Another down point is that the conversations and dynamic between Rylance and Deutch can be a bit strange at times. Sometimes he feels like a partner, sometimes a parent. It’s a strange dynamic that the film can’t quite nail down. The dialogue as a whole isn’t the greatest, and neither are some of the accents.

So in summary, you probably should watch this. It’s not going to end up on my “best-of” list at the end of the year, but it’s impressively done and engrossing throughout. This review may seem negative, but that’s only because it had potential to be amazing, and it’s only very good.

White Building (2021)

Quick Synopsis: A young man in Cambodia struggles to figure out what to do when his home is scheduled for demolition.

This is quite a slow film, almost glacial at the start. But it works, it makes the whole thing feel more slice of life documentary than a normal film. This feeling, that we’re observers of real life, is backed up by the music, well, the lack of it really. In the opening scenes, we see people dance, play football, and have conversations about girls. There’s no music at the forefront, it’s just people talking. That’s the best thing about this film, how it feels like we’re watching someone’s memories, it all feels very real. This is helped by the friendship in the opening section of the main three. The film does a great job of making you know they’ve known each other for a long time. There’s a genuine warmth to their relationship. You get the feeling this is a definitive period in the characters life. Like it should be backed by a “little did I know, that was the last time the old gang would hang out together, life sure was different after that” 80’s-style voiceover. That friendship is put on the backburner by the film when the plot about the building being knocked down starts (which doesn’t really kick off until thirty minutes in), at this point one of the friends moves away and is never really mentioned again. It’s then that the narrative focuses on one person, and becomes a lot more personal.

It’s a definite tonal shift, when the lead character (Samnang) is away from his friends it changes from something lighthearted and sweet, to something quite sad and hopeless. It stops being a story of friendship, focusing on what he has, and instead becomes a film about poverty and ill health, focusing on what he doesn’t have. He meets up again with one of his friends, but the vibe is different. Them riding around town has an increased air of melancholy about it. If the first section is them being in denial about losing their home, the second section is him realising it and coming to terms with it. You genuinely feel the panic everybody has. There’s a moment where they’re discussing the forced selling, and whether to accept the low offer they’re being offered (which isn’t enough to get a new place), or hold out for more. Someone off-handedly mentions that when this happened to another building, the residents were forced out at gunpoint and left with nothing. It’s something that is made all the more horrifying by how casually it’s mentioned and then glossed over. It’s not something that changes everybody’s mind, almost like they all knew it and accepted it.

On the downside, it is a little dull at points. This is definitely a very personal story (the director grew up in the building, and actually includes footage of the demolition at the end of the film), and that is a strength, but there are times where it feels a bit too personal, like he’s forgotten he’s telling this story to other people. Also, it feels like it assumes everybody knows about the history of the building, I read up on the building before watching, and it definitely helped explain a few things, things which the film probably should have. It not only would have made a few things clearer, but also would have made the building feel more like a character, so we get an emotional resonance when it “dies”. Characters drift in and out without reason.

So an interesting film, and a good one, but not a great one. One final thing, and I know it’s a weird thing to say about an actor who doesn’t even have a picture when you search on google, but Chinnaro Soem carries himself like a damn star in the few moments he’s in it. There’s a strange, almost James Dean quality to him and I want to see him in more.

Operation Mincemeat (2021)

The tale of a plan to deceive the German army about the British army’s invasion plans, using a dead body and fake documents.

This is a strange watch. Like all films about the second world war, it does lose a bit of tension because you ultimately know how it ends. For this, even if the deception doesn’t work, it’s not like England are going to lose. So even if the film ends with a personal loss, in the grand scheme it’s a win.

Spoilers, it works and Germany loses the war. Just once I want a film like this to end with “and then the Nazis fought back and won the war, the end” just to confuse the ever-loving fuck out of everybody, and as a social experiment as to how many people get their history knowledge from films.

But despite us knowing how it ends, and the writers knowing we know how it ends, it still tries to draw tension into it in the “will it work” way. I mean, the trailer says “MI5 began the greatest deception in human history”, not “attempted”, the trailer itself implies it works. So the attempted adding of tension to those moments robs the film of what it could be. You can make it tense for the characters but intercut it with scenes of the plan working so that the audience is viewing it from the perspective that we have now. It is possible for historical films to surprise you, The Duke did it marvellously, for example.

This isn’t too well known a story, so if they marketed it differently, it might have worked. Although me saying this all is missing the point, this is a film very much not about the destination, but about the journey. It is a good journey to take on. It’s astounding to see this happen, and how lucky it was that everything worked out the way it did. It’s fascinating to see it all unfurl, how it was done, how it nearly fell apart, and the lies they needed to tell to people so it would work. Not just to the enemies, obviously, but also to the family of the body they used.

It’s when the film turns away from its main focus that it loses something. The interpersonal relationships between the team just aren’t that interesting and feel very tacked-on and unnatural. It feels like the script has a lot of potential sub-plots in so that they could pick one and focus on that, and then forgot to delete the rest. These unfinished plots make it feel not so much a standalone film, and more like an episode in a series. The Ian Fleming references, for example, feel a bit too smug and annoying, like the film is taking a quick respite to say “this is the guy who wrote Bond and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”.

On the plus side, the performances are pretty good throughout, and it is a genuinely fascinating story. So in summary, I’d say you probably should watch it, but you don’t NEED to. It’s being released on Netflix in America, and think that’s the ideal place for it.

The Northman (2022)

Amleth is a young child who sees his father get brutally murdered by his uncle, who then marries the dead mans wife and takes his throne. Twenty years later, Amleth comes back for revenge.

I think Robert Eggers hates his audience. I don’t mean that in a negative way, I mean he refrains from explaining things and making it easier for you. He explores difficult concepts, and doesn’t hold your hand and walk you through it. He revels in making you play catch up, making it so you can’t sit back and rest, your brain has to constantly work. Visually he does his best to make you uncomfortable too, not so much with moments of extreme violence, but a lot of focus on the aftermath.

This is intense, and it won’t be for everybody. If you get a chance to see this with subtitles, take that chance as it will be a much better experience. Like I said, this film doesn’t care if you’re comfortable, if you miss an important piece of dialogue, it’s not going to repeat it or give you any indication of what happened. In a way I admire it, it’s good to see a director who doesn’t treat his viewers like idiots, but on the other hand, I am an idiot, so some bits seemed a bit “wait, what exactly is happening here?” Especially when it comes to character deaths, people die and you get the feeling they’re big deals, but the camera never gets a good look at their face, and they’re not named, so you’re trying to retroactively figure out who it was, and then it turns out they were characters you never really met so……

There’s quite a bit of wasted time in this, particularly at the start. It’s strange as when you’re watching it it doesn’t feel wasted, you can see why it’s there. But then once the main plot gets started (mainly once he gets on an island), you feel “maybe it should have started somewhat closer to here”, especially given how underwritten some of the other characters are, it could have cut some of the earlier scenes and replaced them with scenes fleshing out the other characters.

I do respect the realistic take on the characters. I mean, once you ignore all the mystical and Bjork. It doesn’t show the “heroes” as particularly heroic, the main character hangs around with a group who invade a town and massacre the inhabitants, brutally. It’s shocking to see on screen, it’s not just “chop chop stab stab ultra violence” violence, it’s cold, calculating and it’s evilness is only matches by the pointlessness of the actions. At one point, they set fire to a building. You sit there thinking “oh, they’re just destroying the town and driving the people out”. But then you hear screaming from inside, and banging on the door, and the full implications of what you’re watching are apparent. It’s horrific, disturbing, and would have made a better opening I think. If we started with an invasion on a town, all the horrific acts going on, and THEN realise that one of these guys is the hero, it would add more nuance to whether he’s really the good guy. As it is, it opens with him as a child, so that innocence is always in your brain and stops you seeing him as being as ruthless as he actually is when you think about it.

This has definitely not been marketed well. It’s been marketed as being like Gladiator, something aimed at the mass market. This isn’t like that at all. This has a niche audience, and I fear the trailer might have actually put them off (unless the director’s name hooked them in). This is more like The Count Of Monte Cristo than anything else it’s been compared to.

So in summary, there’s a high chance you’ll hate this; it’s mean-spirited, confusing at times, and slow. But then again, you may love it for the exact same reason. I’m glad I watched it, but don’t think I’ll need to see it again. I very much appreciated what has been done, just wasn’t for me. But there is a definite audience for this, and they will love it.

The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent (2022)

Quick synopsis: Unfulfilled and facing financial ruin, actor Nick Cage accepts a $1 million offer to attend a wealthy fan’s birthday party. Sadly this fan turns out to possibly be a drug lord, so the CIA get Cage to spy on the person for them.

Let’s face it, someone like Cage is perfect for this film. He’s not so much as an actor, as he is a living meme at this point. Capable of greatness, or being terrible. You never see a Cage performance and think “he was alright, nothing special”. He’s one of those people who you could hear any story about and believe. “hey, I heard Nicholas Cage slapped a Rhino with a sea bass” “yeah, that seems like something he’d do”.

So a film in which he plays himself, who gets roped into doing an investigation into a suspected drug lord? Perfect. The result? Well it’s not perfect, it is very, very good. It has a lot of laugh-out-loud moments, but just not consistently enough to consider it great. Also, there are too many issues which stop it from reaching the next level. What issues? Well I’m glad you asked, and your hair looks great by the way.

Well firstly, a big issue is that this has been done before. An action star who is having family trouble, being caught up in a crime? If you want to see how that’s done, watch JCVD, that’s a superb movie featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme giving (genuinely) one of the best performances you’ll ever see. The other issue is that ONLY Cage is playing himself. I’m okay with Sharon Horgan playing his wife, and there are other similar performances. Put Neil Patrick Harris is too big a name to just play Cage’s agent. When I first saw the trailer I assumed he was playing himself too, and he knew about the wealthy person who liked Cage because he’s been invited to his parties too. But nope, he’s just his agent. I feel it would have made more sense to have it as himself though, would have set Pedro Pascal’s character up as the kind of eccentric rich guy who pays celebrities to hang out with him. I kind of have a similar issue with Pascal, who is definitely too big a name to not known. But overall I’m more okay with that, because he is so much fun in this. He doesn’t normally do comedy, but he should, he has a talent for it, and him and Cage bounce off each other wonderfully.

The other downside? This could go further, it features moments where Cage is interacting with a younger version of himself. It’s a bit weird, happens enough that it is notable, but doesn’t happen enough to make you comfortable. I mean, it’s Cage, this has room to go a lot weirder, and it’s weird how refrained it is. I also have an issue with the fact that the guy we thought was good, turns out to have been good all along, and the actual villain is a guy we’ve seen only once or twice in the film, and then very fleeting.

I know this sounds negative, but I have had to be very nit-picky to make those points. Overall it’s a very fun watch. I’m glad I saw it, and probably will see it again if it’s on streaming services, or I find it cheap at a boot fair or charity shop. As I said before, it is very funny, even if some of those laughs have been ruined in the trailer. The plot makes sense, even when people make stupid decisions, you can understand the logic. It also has actual characters with their own personalities and motivations. This means that when the film aims to be emotional, it actually works.

So yeah, if you get a chance, go see it. But don’t rush out RIGHT NOW. Treat it like a deer, approach slowly and realise you may not see it.