Shazam! (2019)

Well this is fun. Genuinely one of the most fun superhero films I’ve seen in a long time. It’s pure cinematic joy. So yeah, I liked it. It melted even my cold cynical heart, eventually. I mean, it took f*cking forever to get going. That’s always the issue with the first film in a superhero series though, particularly with one that not many people now. You have to not only have a film within itself, you need to introduce everything; the universe (Batman Begins wouldn’t have been as effective, for example, without first setting up that Gotham was kind of a shithole), the main characters backstory, and the villains backstory. That’s a lot to do in a short period of time, and it’s REALLY hard. That’s why it’s shared universes are great for this kind of thing, you can set up the characters in someone elses film. Spider-Man: Homecoming for example didn’t need to spend much time setting up the character, as he was already introduced in Civil War (also, EVERYONE knows Spider-man). If you cut out the origin story then the biggest issue with this film would be fixed immediately as it will be a lot pacier and flow better. To be honest, this character would have been perfect in Justice League, taking most of the comedic dialogue away from The Flash. You’d have to restructure parts of this though so there is a chance that might break it. This film is pretty much about family, it contains genuine emotion, like, tears slightly welling up level of emotion. The cast is also great. Zachary Levi easily makes you forget you’re actually watching an adult, not a large child.

I mean, it’s not perfect. As I’ve mentioned the pacing is glacial at the start. And whilst there’s nothing wrong with the way it looks, per se, it just isn’t visually very interesting which is a shame. It looks just like a normal film, nothing really wows you. I also think they missed a golden opportunity. This bit contains plot spoilers btw. There’s a moment where all his adopted siblings also become adult superheroes. I feel this would have been a great chance to have some cameos, you know, have some fun with the casting in some way. Oh, and the villain is missing from long periods of the film. Holy crap this film had a lot of flaws now I look at it. But I don’t care. I wasn’t thinking about the flaws when I left the cinema, I was smiling like an idiot because the film was fun enough to make me not think about them. And really isn’t that all you want from a film a lot of the time? For it to entertain you? Although I’m still not sure if it’s Faithe Herman who’s adorable and lovely, or just the character. Let’s just say it’s both for sake of argument.

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Us (2019)

Spoilers: this film isn’t as good as Get Out. That’s not damning it though, as VERY few films are as good as Get Out. I feel that film could weigh Jordan Peele down slightly, it has given everything he is involved with INCREDIBLY high expectations which it’s going to be hard for him to match.

That being said, this film is still spectacular. I don’t see it hitting pop culture quite as high as Get Out did, but it’s still probably one of the highlights of the year, and definitely the best horror film of the year so far.

Honestly, and as much as I hate to say this, the weakest part of this film is the script. It feels like it needed adjusting slightly. I mean, it is still good, but there are moments where it’s a bit too unsubtle, a bit too unfocused, taking too long to say certain things. It’s still great, it just needs slight tweaks. While the script isn’t as good as Get Out, this film is MUCH better directed, which considering how great a job he did on Get Out, really says something. EVERYTHING seems to have purpose visually. He’s great at making sure a sense of unease looms over the entire film, giving even innocuous scenes a sense of dread. You could watch normal scenes out of context, scenes of family just walking down the beach, and they’d be SOMETHING about it which would tell you it’s slightly off.

The performances are also SUPERB. Almost everyone in it has to play two roles, and they need to make them different enough to visually identify which character we are seeing. Lupita Nyong’o in particular really nails it. The way she makes her characters move effects how you see them as people, it’s truly great.

My favourite moment of this film? The wham moment (which is not to be confused with the scene from Keanu where they argue that George Michael was a gangster, that’s a Wham! moment) is one of the best I’ve seen. This moment has slight spoilers so if you don’t want this film spoiled, look away now, and I’ll tell you when you can look back.

Those fucking idiots. If they’re looking away then they won’t see when I tell them to look back, they’re going to be walking around forever looking slightly to the left, they’re going to walk into so many open sewers. Hah!

Wait, where was I? Oh right, the wham moment. For a lot of this film it’s played like the only clones (ok, they’re not clones, but if I call them “tethereds” that will make no sense unless you either see the film, or I explain it) that exist are the ones of the family. We then find out that they exist of another family, and they’re all similar; all sociopathic killers. We then see a news broadcast and find out it’s country-wide. This moment is SUPERB. We find out that what we have been watching has been happening all over the country, that there are millions of stories just like the one we’ve seen, and they’ve all ended brutally. That is what I will remember from this film, how I felt in that moment. Also, that moment had a piece of realisation of visual foreshadowing that made me say out loud “You magnificent bastard”. So that’s that, this film made me annoying.

Fisherman’s Friends (2019)

This is not the greatest film I’ve seen, but it’s enjoyable. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a piece of toast (I compare films to food way more than most people do, I should look into that). By that, I mean that no matter how perfectly it does what it needs to, it will never be your favourite. It sticks to a formula, and as such is kind of restrained by that. You can guess almost every single plot point in this film from the opening 10 minutes. It won’t surprise you at all. But it doesn’t really need to, this is not a film to analyse and pore over, it’s a film to sit and distract yourself, and it does that well. The dialogue is razor sharp, the characters are loveable (and fully fleshed out, even the background ones have minor details to them which help you know them), and it will make you smile. The whole thing is just massively endearing and charming and, I don’t know, warm I guess is the word I’m looking for. You know how certain films have colours attached to them? I’d say this one is a warm sea blue. It’s just comforting and lovely, the kind of film the whole family gathers and watches on Christmas Day, in that post-dinner haze where you’re all too exhausted to move, and someone inevitably falls asleep in the sofa with their Christmas hat still on. It’s incredibly BBC, and I mean that as positive and a negative.

So yeah don’t go out of your way to watch this, but if (actually, when) it comes on iPlayer, watch it immediately.

The above made complete sense in relation to this film. Which is weird, as with the exception of 3 words, it was lifted word for word from an earlier review. That’s both the best and worst thing about about this film. It’s nice to have something familiar, even if it is something new. It’s comforting to not have to sit there wondering exactly what’s going to happen and to just be able to lose yourself in the dialogue and the characters. It’s nice to have something you can have on in the background and talk to people during. It’s good to have something you expect, and have it meet every expectation. But yeah it can be a bit annoying to have that. It can be slightly frustrating to feel you’ve already seen everything in it. I think my feelings would be a lot less forgiving if I had paid for this, I feel that about quite a few films, but this one in particular was received more warmly because it was free. I mean, it is enjoyable, incredibly so, it just never feels like it does more than exist. It doesn’t grab you. It does have James Purefoy looking like a West Country Wolverine though, so it gets a few points for that.

Captain Marvel (2019)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also, that No Doubt scene was WAY too unsubtle

Fighting With My Family (2019)

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Death Day 2 U (2019)

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

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

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

Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

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

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

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

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

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

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

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

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

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

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

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

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

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

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

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019)

I genuinely enjoyed this film and will definitely buy it on DVD when it comes out. It was funny, heartwarming and had an incredibly well-crafted script that is suitable for children and adults. If you asked me during the first half of the movie my response would have been the opposite. I was kind of bored, the jokes were mainly from the trailer so were ones I’d heard before, and the songs were only okay. That songs gripe might not have been the film though, it is possible that the way the cinema set it up was the problem; the background noise and the music was louder than the lyrics so you couldn’t make them out clearly.

So yeah I was not a fan of the opening, it felt not quite as sharp as the first movie, and it sidelines a lot of the characters. Princess Unikitty for example was one of the highlights of the first movie and is not really in this one. The same goes for almost all of the characters from the first one with the exception of Emmet, Lucy, and Batman. This would be fine if the characters who replaced them were as good, and whilst there is nothing really wrong with them they just miss that spark.

One other issue is reality. In the first movie the fact that it was a kid playing with lego didn’t really matter until the very end of the movie. In this it goes throughout, which is both better and worse. It does mean that since you’re constantly aware that it’s kids playing with toys, your brain always thinks “ok, this is what’s happening in the film, now what’s REALLY happening?” so you can’t really get invested in it. The upside is how beautifully it ties into the ending. The final third of this film is amazing and WOULD NOT work without the reality subtext. It’s genuinely genius what it does, and what it means. Yeah this film is about kids playing with toys, but it’s about HOW they play with them. It’s the first film I’ve seen which kind of takes aim at the notion of everything having to be dark and gritty, that phase which every teenage male goes through where they feel everything they like has to be grown up. The idea that films they watch have to be dark and fully of guns. A concept which causes people to try so hard to appear to be mature that it comes off as juvenile. This film takes aim at that notion, and does so wonderfully. The way that reality bleeds into this film is a work of art and I commend it.

So yeah, go see this film, see it twice if you have to. It may not start great but it does achieve greatness when you stick with it. Has a few niggles, and there’s one live action moment which drags longer than it needs to. But it’s very funny with GREAT voice performances and is just as loveable as the first one