Confession time; I have not seen the original film, and unlike Star Wars or Back To The Future it hasn’t really permeated pop culture that much. Don’t get me wrong, I am aware of the film, and it’s importance, and I understand a few references to it, but references to it aren’t quite as mainstream as they are to other films. This, combined with lots of people saying they didn’t understand this film and that it was too complex, made me think that I would hate this film. Not because of what the film is, but because I just wouldn’t get it. My response was going to be “it’s good, it’s just not for me, and I was really confused”. Well, I was confused, I was confused by the confusion. People are talking about it as if it’s a really complex plot where you have to pay close attention to everything in every scene and do a lot of research beforehand to understand, I knew nothing and still knew what was going on, it’s not that complex if you’re paying even the smallest amount of attention.
Was surprised that Harrison Ford didn’t appear until MUCH later than I thought he would. I expected him to make an appearance at about the 1/3 mark. Nope, it was more like the 2/3 mark. Which was a bit strange as he was all over the marketing campaign and was the lead in the original, so a lot of people would have been waiting around him to appear. Although I suppose this did mean that by the time he did appear, everybody was already invested into the story, so he didn’t really take away from Gosling. Make no mistake, this is Gosling’s film, and he nails it. Although the supporting cast does a great job too, So many of your new favourite actress’s will be in this film. A lot of unknowns were cast, yet gave amazing performances. Ana De Armas and Carla Juri deserve special mentions. They both portray their characters with enough vulnerability to make them believable, yet enough determination that they fit this universe. Their characters were great too, you imagined they all had lives outside of this film, they exist on their own terms, not just related to the story. It felt like you could write entire novels based around them.
The world itself was beautifully created as well, not just visually (although it was visually stunning), but also in terms of believability. Those of you who read the review of Valerian will know how important I consider world building to be, particularly in this genre, for films like this the universe it’s set in is almost a character in itself, so if you don’t do that well it really effects it. Done really well in this though, everything looks just dirty enough to be real, yet clean enough to be futuristic. On that note; this film looks SUPERB. You could pause this at almost any point in the film and use that as a poster. This, combined with Arrival last year must surely make Denis Villeneuve one of the best-regarded directors around.
I also liked how the story threw a genuine curveball in the closing stretch. I do like a good twist if it’s well done. That’s the trouble with a lot of plot swerves, they come out of nowhere and make no sense. A good one makes sense, a GREAT one will be so logical you’ll feel stupid for not realising it sooner. So in summary, this is going to be one of those films that pretentious film buffs constantly try to show you, let them.
After the craptastic double bill of Valerian and The Emoji Movie last week, finally I see something amazing (although I think it’s fair to say I didn’t exactly expect Emoji Movie to be anything other than bad): The Big Sick This film was as great as the combined awfulness of those two films. Incredibly funny, and with the right amount of heart. You’d need to be made of stone not to feel touched by this film. The characters are so well-written as well, every character seems fully fleshed out. They seem like they exist outside of the film.
I’ve seen a lot of films at the cinema this year (45 to be precise), and this has had the best instantaneous audience feedback I’ve seen. I’ve seen horrors where a few people have sat there not flinching or jumping in fright, I’ve seen spectacle films where people are bored, and I’ve seen comedies where nobody is laughing. Everybody in the screen I was at reacted to this. They laughed at every joke (to the point where the laughter in the room was louder than the laughter on screen, in a scene set at a comedy club), people “awww’ed” at the right parts, it couldn’t have been more perfect if the film studio paid them to react like that.
It’s not a perfect film though. As much as he nails the performance 95% of the time, there are a few heavily emotional moments where Kumail Nanjiani looks like he’s desperately hiding a smirk, robbing the scene of some of the emotion. It’s not helped by how great the rest of the cast are; Holly Hunter is superb, Ray Romano is perfect in this, and I really want to see Zoe Kazan in more stuff now.
This is definitely the best rom-com I’ve seen at the cinema all year. Not too difficult though, as it’s the only rom-com I’ve seen this year. There’s actually not been that much romance in cinema this year, the only films where the main focus of the film has been romance have been:
La La Land (musical drama)
The Space Between Us (science fiction)
That’s a shame though as despite being deeply cynical and incapable of love or any positive emotion towards others, I do have a soft spot for the genre. Definitely Maybe is the film that fully cemented my Ryan Reynolds obsession, and Chasing Amy did the same for Ben Affleck. I think it’s because they’re usually very people-based. Action films are about the set-pieces, horror films are about the effects, but for a rom-com to work you need two things:
They’re basically my kryptonite, especially dialogue. I’m a sucker for great dialogue, it’s probably why I seem to be the only person who liked Table 19 (actually I didn’t like it, I LOVED it, genuinely one of my favourite films of the year). It’s also a genre that doesn’t really get affected too badly by the quality of the way you’re viewing it. Some genres are really badly affected by what you watch them on. Horror, for example, is not exactly something you can appreciate watching on a small television screen on an airplane. So many films are “you have to see this in the cinema!”. Think of Avatar, that film is the biggest grossing film of all time. When was the last time you watched it? Do you know anybody who has watched it at home? As Scott Mendelson wrote in Forbes almost 4 years ago
“Kids don’t play ‘Avatar’ on the playground nor with action figures in their homes. There is little-if-any ‘Avatar’-themed merchandise in any given store. Most general moviegoers couldn’t tell you the name of a single character from the film, nor could they name any of the actors who appeared in it … ‘Avatar’ didn’t inspire a legion of would-be ‘Avatar’ rip-offs, save perhaps for Walt Disney’s disastrous ‘John Carter.’ It didn’t set the mold for anything that followed save its use of 3D which turned the post-conversion tool into a valuable way to boost box office overseas”
With advances in technology happening at an astronomical rate, spectacle fades, good writing doesn’t. The best rom-com’s; When Harry Met Sally, Annie Hall etc, all have one thing in common; fantastic writing. You can watch them again and again and still love them. They also have a wide audience. As much as I do love odd films like Buried (Ryan Reynolds in a box), Bogowie (a Polish film about heart transplant) and Four Lions (a comedy about suicide bombers), I’m not stupid enough to think they have mass appeal. They’re too weird. Rom-coms are for everyone though. They have universal themes that almost everybody can identify with.
So where does this film stand compared to the greats of the genre? It’s a little difficult to tell at the moment, but I have a feeling that if I was to sit down in a years time and watch this, I’ll still love it. It also has the best 9/11 joke you’ll likely to hear all year.
Ok, I’ll open this with the good: the opening for this is superb. It starts off with a (very) brief history of space travel in the past, then continues on to the future. This sets up the universe brilliantly. We see humans develop anti-gravity, set up a colony, then meet other species from the universe, all whilst Space Oddity plays. This scene is the highlight of the film, and the quality of it is never matched again.
I went into this with low expectations, and it couldn’t even meet those. I expected it to be the best looking film I’ve seen all year, but kind of bland in terms of story. Let’s start with the visuals; yes, I know it’s all very impressive what it looks like, it’s all very colourful and majestic, but you know what else it is? Sterile and cold. There’s no warmth to the visuals, nothing looks lived in. Everything in it looks like a computer generated movie setting, even the “seedy” areas of the spaceship don’t look quite dirty enough, they just have more neon than the other parts. As such nothing seems real, you can’t imagine anybody living in this world. They spent so much time making it look impressive, they forgot to make it look real.
Not just the visuals that let you down though. Their’s numerous devices and technologies which are used once then never mentioned again despite how useful they would be. For example; there’s a gun which when you fire it at someone, it means you can control them via remote control. This is used exactly once in the over two hours of the film. There are also two moments where someone’s mind gets read, both times by different things, which are never ever mentioned again.
I don’t mind bad films, they can be amusing to watch, and can at least sometimes be fun. But a dull movie? That I can’t forgive. And this is dull. It’s not so much that “nothing happens”, more “nothing of consequence” happens. There are entire 20-30 minute sequences which could be cut completely from the film and it wouldn’t affect the story. You know how when you’re playing a video game, you get one door away from the final boss, then suddenly you get “now go collect all these scattered artefacts from around the world”, and you realise that was only done to increase the playing time so they can advertise it as being better than it actually is? That’s what watching this film is like. It’s a shame as it could have been good, maybe if it was released in the 80’s, so it would have had different lead actors. I like Dane DaHaan, a lot, I thought he was fantastic in Life After Beth, and near perfect in A Cure For Wellness. But he is woefully miscast in this. It doesn’t help that his character is kind of a dick; and not a redeemable loveable one. One where when you see him in danger you don’t think “oh no, save him Super Jesus”, you just think “meh”. It doesn’t help that the characters’ introduction consists of him in a weird “I think this is supposed to be sexual chemistry but just looks like sexual harassment” scene.
So, in closing; a film with potential, that is too long, too pointless, and just, well, just not good enough for the budget.
There’s something to be said for the accidental double bill. Films that have nothing to do with each other but seem like they belong together anyway. The best example of this lately I feel is Spotlight and The Big Short. They came out at different times, and were about completely different topics, but tonally they felt very similar. There’s a similar feeling with these two films, only this time it’s actually a lot easier to quantify; they’re both modern films containing a slight throwback feel to them. Baby Driver is basically a modern car chase film, a twenty-first century Bullitt, whereas Spiderman: Homecoming is basically a John Hughes movie with superpowers. Both of them are throwback films for the modern age, you don’t lose anything going into them without knowing the history of their respective genre-homages, but you do gain if you’re aware of them.
So what were they like? I’ll start with Spiderman. I actually liked it. The plot was simplistic but it was still better than at least 50% of MCU films purely because it had a compelling villain. Michael Keaton’s character (he plays some sort of Birdman) makes sense. You’re not watching it thinking “what a terrible person, glad he’s not real”, you’re thinking “he’s actually making a lot of sense. I see where he’s coming from, and in a way, I agree with him”. He’s the most compelling villain in the MCU so far, and the performance matches the writing. A lot of comic book fans were disappointed that they changed his appearance for the films, I don’t particularly care about it to be honest, mainly because it would be really hard to take THIS seriously.
I know that this talk about “taking it seriously” makes this sound like it’s attempting to be super serious and gritty, thank God they didn’t do that, this film is fun as hell. Even the colours are better than lots of superhero films. A lot of films have orange and blue as the main colours, but use them against dark backdrops, this uses those colours but uses them against light. It’s very summer-ey in appearance. It’s also really funny. The characters are well written and have great lines, Zendeya’s character in particular is a great collection of sarcasm and apathy which I really identify with for some reason. She has the best lines throughout and is one of the films many comedic highlights. In terms of comedy though, most of the best moments from the non-main characters belong to Jacob Batalon’s Ned, who absolutely owns his role as “guy in a chair”. He also helps provide an audience surrogate, since the film starts with him already as hero, many people expected the origin to either be ignored, or told in flashbacks. It did neither, it had Ned ask questions and we found out small details from that, not so much that we were re-covering old ground, and not so little that people new to the franchise were confused. So in summary; very good, very fun, and I think it’s safe to say that Tom Holland is the best Spider-Man, although part of that is due to the way he’s written, he’s actually written as an adolescent, the villains he faces aren’t ones who are going to destroy the world, the main villain is basically an unfriendly neighbourhood villain.
So, onto Baby Driver. If you’re interested in film you need to see this, a true masterpiece of film-making. Almost the entire film has music alongside it, it’s a film which you could put on in the background at a party and just listen to it, and it would work (I will prove that one day). Yes, the plot is wafer thin, but it’s so fun you don’t notice. You don’t sit there thinking “well I know how this story is going to end”, you think “oh my God! Did you see that?”. It’s a non-blockbuster version of spectacle cinema. Everything about the way it’s made just works, the way the music complements the action and vice versa, the way the car chases are impressive without being unrealistic, the fact that Jon Hamm and Kevin Spacey continue to exist.
The most annoying thing about this film is that you will never see anything else like it, but lots films will claim to be like it. The love and dedication that goes into this is obvious. This was not “film by committee”, this was a true passion project, and it shows through every inch of the screen. It’s also surprisingly American. The open road, the American dream, diners with endless coffee are all essential to the story, so it’s weird that such an American film was made by a Brit, this feels like the film where Edgar Wright has finally stepped away from under the shadow of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. In an ideal world Scott Pilgrim would have done that, but at least it has finally happened. One of the best films I’ve seen this year on a technical level, from the opening scene right through to the closing credits it never stops impressing, never slows down, which considering it’s almost 2 hours long is incredibly impressive.
So that’s Baby Driver and Spiderman:Homecoming. Both flawed but worth a watch. Both destined to be movies people put on and watch in large groups. Both have been put on my “buy on dvd” list. So how can I end this? The same way I end everything; cover song! Here’s an acoustic cover of the Spider-Man theme song, enjoy, then check out their other stuff on the youtube and their twitter.
There’s a French film from 2002 called Irréversible, it’s a weird art-house psychological horror that’s apparently disturbing in many ways. During a large section of the film there’s a noise played throughout that’s played at such a frequency that it’s almost inaudible; this was done as a sound played at that level causes nausea and sickness. I should note there’s a chance that this is just an urban legend, but truth be told I don’t want to research it in case it’s not true, it’s too magical for me to find out it’s false. But what does that have to do with this film? Well that feeling, that sense of unease, is what this entire film is about. There’s not many scares in the traditional sense, it’s just almost two hours of something being slightly “off”.
Nowhere is that more apparent than in some of the performances. I’ve seen films with better individual performances, but I can’t remember the last time I saw a film where every performance across the entire film was perfect. There’s not a single weak link in terms of performances, even characters who are only seen for a few minutes knock it out the park. The lowest mark you can give a performance in this is 8/10, but there’s definitely a few perfect 10’s throughout. She’s not in it for long but Betty Gabriel in particular was absolutely superb and if there’s any justice in the world she’ll use this to springboard herself into bigger roles, I’m sure studios will be falling over themselves to cast the woman who’s in one of the most popular GIF’s of the year, being seen by people who haven’t even seen the film.
There’s a lot of VERY good eye acting in this film. I know this sounds stupid but there’s a lot of moments in this film which are enhanced by the way the actors utilise their eyes. Some of this has been seen in images of Daniel Kaluuya used in promotional material, which, whilst we’re on the subject; the promotional material for this was all delightfully understated, keeping the films cards very close to its chest. It showed a lot, but nothing that will spoil the plot. I’ve spoken a lot in the past about invasive marketing for films, and how that can help create interest for a film, and about how much I love stuff like that and I wish it happened more. Not for this though, it wouldn’t have suited it. This didn’t need marketing to create its universe, as it’s a world in which we can imagine we already live in, this really helps you lose yourself in the film. It’s also a film that sadly I can imagine being relevant for a very long time as a lot of the cultural issues it touch upon are ones which have been relevant for a long time, and will sadly continue to be part of society. Yes, this film does touch on a lot of racial issues, but not the usual “we’re from Alabama, and we don’t like those coloured folk”. The racism in here is very different, it comes not from anger or hate, but from a fetishisation of black people, a condescending view of them as being “genetically superior” but intellectually lacking. As such the film has a weird dynamic where the villains kind of worship the heroes. Very weird, very unique, and VERY well written.
It’s kind of odd how well written and made this film is. It’s written and directed by Jordan Peele, who I’ve only seen in Key & Peele (a sketch show on Comedy Central that I really need to get around to watching one day), one of the voices in Storks (animated children’s comedy that’s actually better than you think it would be), and Keanu (an action comedy film about someone getting a cat from a Mexican drug lord). As such I always thought of him as a comedic person, I never thought he’d be able to transfer his skills to horror so effectively, in fact I’ll go as far as to say it’s one of the best directorial debuts I’ve seen in a long time, which considering he’s basically committing genre adultery is impressive. That being said, it is still very very funny. The mood whiplash between horror and comedy is very well balanced, usually in films like this you have the comedy make the horror seem less scary, it doesn’t enhance the film, it undercuts it and stops you taking it seriously, usually because the comedy comes from a character not taking the situation seriously, they’re being chased by a monster/demon/dishwasher and they stop to make jokes. The way they do the comedy in here is believable, you can tell the jokes are being made by the characters to help them deal with the situations, and most of them are made by a character who isn’t directly involved in it, so is literally distanced from the situation already. This isn’t comedy-horror done like a mid-90’s slasher film, this is comedy-horror done like An American Werewolf In London.
One final note about this, I have to say my favourite thing about this film; that it’s doing well. Last I saw it had made $136million against a budget of $4.5million and had received universal acclaim from both critics and audiences. I like that, it would be a real shame if this film didn’t do well as it’s superbly well made, as it is this film has broken records and is certain to go down as a modern classic. Seriously, go see this film. In fact, you could say “Get Out, to go see this film”. You could say that, but you’d be making a really obvious comment and would just come off looking like an idiot.
I was very nervous about this film, I worried it wouldn’t be that good. Actually that’s a massive lie, but it sounds better than “saw the trailer, liked the trailer, was pleased with the final result”. This film was what I expected to be, and to be honest it’s what it needed to be; which is the first truly mature comic book film in a long time. Some people would say that Deadpool deserves that accolade, but I wouldn’t count that as mature. It had lots of blood and adult content, but it was very silly and lowest common denominator, don’t get me wrong, I do love that film (it was one of my favourites from last year), but it’s not mature at all. This film is though. One of the best compliments you can give this film is that it is a fantastic film, not “fantastic for a comic book movie”, on it’s own terms it’s a fantastic film. There’s going to be a lot of people who find this film dull, it takes quite some time for certain things to happen but it’s brilliant. Not every film has to be fast food, designed to be satisfactory but finished quickly, this film is more like a three course meal at a restaurant, you savour every moment and really take your time with it, so that when it’s over you feel completely satisfied and all you can do is sit there and recover from the brilliance you just consumed.
That’s a point, the ending of this film will be talked about, not here as you can’t without spoiling it. It is brilliantly done though, it’s an ending which this series has truly deserved, and it ends with a Johnny Cash song, which most comic book films wouldn’t be able to do but for here it fits. It is pretty much a modern western, a tale of a retired gunslinger coming back for one more gunfight, the last outlaw, in a time and place without purpose and that has moved on without him, causing him to need to go out in a blaze of glory.
Should also probably mention how great Dafne Keen is as X-23 though; the best child in a comic book film since Kick-Ass (in fact I’d argue this one was better as has much more depth), the actress is amazing, so much so that you don’t realise that she’s mute for most of the film. She does such a good job displaying her motivations etc through her body language and facial expressions that you don’t really notice that she hasn’t spoken. It’s kind of like when you’re watching a really good subtitled film and you get so used to it, and it’s done so well that you keep forgetting you’re not actually listening to the words. The fact that this is only her second acting role is amazing (her only previous role being in a TV show: The Refugees). I really hope big things happen to her soon. This film is full of good performances; Hugh Jackman’s performance is genuinely Oscar-worthy, Patrick Stewart is Patrick Stewart, and Stephen Merchant is surprisingly good as well, giving an extremely subtle and underplayed performance.
I appreciate this review has been all over the place, but it’s hard to stay focused on certain parts as every time start talking about something I immediately want to start talking about how fantastic another part of the film was. At some point I’ll be able to write an intelligent and coherent piece about this film, about how it handles themes usually dealt with in Oscar-bait films, about how it’s a true masterpiece, about how genuinely moving and emotional this film is. But right now I can’t do that. I’m still in shock about it (and I saw it over a week ago). This film is too good to write coherently about, and that’s something I’ve never thought about a film.
Brilliant performances all round
Earns the R rating
But not in a gratuitous way.
Emotional as hell.
Villains could have been better written.
Having Liev Schriber’s character from X-Men Origins in it would have been a nice touch.
Doesn’t answer a lot of questions which it should have (but might be answered in future ones)
Some films you see them and you have an automatic visual reaction, for example when I saw Gone Girl for the first time, after the film ended there was spontaneous applause (something I’ve only ever seen for about 4 other films), but occasionally the most interesting part is when nobody does anything. Sometimes this is bad, it can indicate disappointment or a feeling of being short changed, you have a room full of people sitting there thinking “was that it? That was so boring it almost sent me to sleep”, but sometimes the silence says more than any other reaction possibly could. For example when I saw Buried at cinema in Portsmouth, it ended and the reaction was complete silence, everyone was too depressed to move, the silence lasted for at least 20 seconds (which doesn’t seem long, but sit there and time it, it’s longer than you think) until it was broken by somebody saying “I think I need to self-harm now”. That was pretty much the reaction to this, just a sense of unease among everyone in the cinema, when we left there was a feeling like we’d all just gone through a shared trauma. Yet it was by no means a horrible film, there was beauty in the ugliness. The beauty of the way shots were composed meant the ugliness was more striking. Haven’t seen a film like this since Nocturnal Animals, and even that wasn’t as unrelenting as this was. This film starts off making you feel slightly uncomfortable and uneasy, and never gives you pause throughout the (some would say “slightly excessive) 146 minute runtime.
Oh yeah, I suppose I should mention that, this film is very very long, and I feel it doesn’t really need to be. There are moments where characters do things which they should have done earlier (for example, the main character is constantly woken by a knocking noise, this happens throughout the film, yet he doesn’t investigate it until very late on in the film). There’s also scenes which are slightly repetitive, the film wants you to think something and doesn’t want to risk you not realising certain things. A lot of the supporting characters are also woefully underwritten, Celia Imrie’s character for example was interesting in what we saw, but we needed a bigger investment into her for certain things to have narrative weight. Not the only flaw in this film, in fact this film is deeply flawed in many areas, particularly in terms of pacing, yet (for me anyway) those flaws can be ignored because of how great the film is.
I can see a lot of people really hating this film, it’s an easy film to dislike, and not just “not my thing” dislike, more “I want to harm everybody involved in making this piece of shit” dislike, but I can also see people who like it really loving it. It’s divisive, like marmite, Batfleck, or Fantf4stic.
What this film does well though, it does very well. The aforementioned feeling of dread throughout is remarkable, it feels like the characters spend the entire film with a sword dangling over their heads, and you’re waiting for it to drop (yes, that is occasionally exactly as frustrating as that sounds). It could be argued that when it does drop it not only spends forever making it’s journey, but it also doesn’t seem to live up what it promises, it promises excalibur dropping and all you get is a sewing needle. Yet for me it worked, it won’t be for everybody but I kind of dug how they ended it.
The performances in this were also superb, I haven’t seen Chronicle, so all I know Dane DeHaan from is the woefully under appreciated Life After Beth, a film which he is good in, but the performance he gives is just kind of standard. He is amazing in his, you really feel his fear throughout the film, you feel his anger and frustration at what’s happening, if you don’t buy the characters reactions, the entire film crumbles as theres no jeopardy. Jason Isaacs is as good as you expect him to be, coming off as an English actor who was created by someone attempting to draw Jon Hamm from memory. Just realised he has never won a BAFTA, how is that possible? He’s amazing and obviously talented, it’s about time that was realised. The best performance in this film; Mia Goth. I’m not familiar anything she’s done before, was truly a revelation in this. The vulnerability of the character is shown very well in her performance, not just vocally but the way the character moves adds to the performance, you see her walking across a room and automatically feel fearful for her. Interested to see what she does next.
Is there an obvious improvement that could be made to this film? Only one I can think of is it could have been nicer. If there were more moments of joyful bliss and serenity then the underlying creepy nature would have more weight when it eventually emerges. It wouldn’t have taken long, just a few scenes of idyllic comfort at the building, make it seem more like a genuine place of joy. As it is, everything is so obviously creepy that the fact there’s an underlying creepiness isn’t really surprising. It would be like finding out “Dave The Axe Murderer” is a killer, you’d be like “well, yeah, kind of guessed that”.
Which brings me on to my next point: the marketing. There was nothing special about, and I feel that was a problem. Batman Vs. Superman did a lot wrong (that’s an understatement) but one thing I loved is that they tied an advert for an airline company into the advertising for the film, it was a unique way of marketing it and I kind of dug it. I’d have loved to have seen marketing materials not about the film, but about the wellness facility featured in the film. Just a short teaser about the facilities there, with a slight underlying creepiness implying the real intentions. Even the website for it is magnificently mediocre;
I mean, look at that, that doesn’t set you on edge, it doesn’t do anything emotionally to you. It’s dull. Nothing about it is unusual or unique. A massive disappointment. They had a perfect opportunity to have a really unique marketing campaign and they blew it. They should have a website for the facility, adverts for it etc, maybe youtube testimonials about how “there’s something in the water” which means you “never want to leave”. Maybe have an alternate reality game that allows you to delve into the mythos, maybe a quick 5 minute walking simulator released online I don’t know. I don’t care what you do, just DO SOMETHING!
So, in summary. Should you watch this film? I’d say yes. This is a film that deserves to be seen, there’s a chance you’ll hate it, but there’s a chance you’ll love it, but either way you’ll have strong reactions to it.
The two teeth-based scenes (not spoiling them here, but trust me they’re horrific).
Let’s get the obvious out of the way here; I’m fairly certain I’m not the target audience for this film (a feeling which was confirmed by the cinema being almost entirely teenage girls), so this had an uphill battle to impress me, an uphill battle which was evened out by the release of the trailer, which was funny, slightly heartwarming, and cynical as hell, I’m glad to say the only difference between the film and the trailer is the film itself is a lot more heartwarming. It’s just as funny and cynical as you’d hope, although part of my opinion on that might be because I have a weakness for any film which has “I’m going to kill myself” as the first line.
It’s not just the cynical nature of the film that’s done well, the characters themselves are really well defined. Even when the characters do and say terrible things, you understand their motivations, even though you don’t agree with them. They are all fully fleshed out, and they all get good lines. Unpopular opinion, I tend to dislike “comedy characters” in films and sitcoms, mainly because it means the writers tend to give them all the best lines, leaving the other characters somewhat underdeveloped. That’s a problem which this film avoids, most of the characters could comfortably lead their own movie, that’s a masterful piece of scripting and the writer should be commended for that. Which is why I’m glad the writer also directed it, it’s easier to follow directors careers than writers as more emphasis is put on directors. I was surprised this was directed by the writer, although it kind of makes sense, this seems like a very personal story and they’d be nobody better to get that across than the person who wrote it. It’s more surprising that this is her first film as a director, whilst it’s not exactly full of “wow shots”, or inspiring cinematography, it’s a lot more accomplished than a first time director should be, here’s hoping she gets a chance to do more work in the future with someone elses script, will be interesting to see what she can do. I feel her best work is as a writer though, the script has some amazing pieces of dialogue that really hit home. My personal favourite being (and i’m paraphrasing here) “I just don’t want to have to live with myself for the rest of my life”.
This film is not perfect however, a major problem is that you will feel you’ve seen it before. Within five minutes of meeting certain characters you can guess their entire story arc, you know what they’ll end up doing for the rest of the film. Despite that it’s still a very enjoyable film, it’s a bit like listening to a REALLY good cover song, whilst it’s not completely original, and you won’t be surprised by it, you still have to be impressed with how they’ve done it, and you still love it. Put it this way; I also watched Arrival this week. Probably one of the best films I’ve seen all year, yet i still felt like THIS was the film I should write about.
I will admit, this is not the greatest film of the year, it’s not even in the top five if I’m honest, yet I’ll sum up my feelings about this film on this; I have a belief that everyone should have a self-care box. A box which contains dvds, books, chocolate, tea etc, basically stuff which will cheer you up when you’re at your worst. And whilst this film won’t make it into my top 10 of the year, or my favourite 100 of all time, it definitely deserves to go in the box, and that’s the best thing you can say about it.
Edge Of Glory
Strong performances from the cast (Special mention must go to Hailee Steinfeld, Hayden Szeto, Haley Lu Richardson and Blake Jenner. Actually all of them were really good)
Very very funny and heartwarming.
Possibly one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard all year.
Director: Luke Scott (Loom, one episode of The Hunter)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Quick Synopsis: Scientists create Morgan, a genetically engineered advanced human, who then goes “grrr”, “arg” and *stab in eye*.
First off, this film has been horribly marketed. I haven’t seen a single trailer at the cinema, or a poster. In fact if I wasn’t checking comingsoon.net every day I wouldn’t even know this film existed. Which is a shame as the trailer showed a lot of potential, a more human Ex Machina starring Toby Jones, Paul Giamatti, and the lead from (the very very creepy) The Witch. This could be a true cult classic. So my expectations were high going in. The opening scene is very well done, it’s shot like security footage and the screen is full of lots of little details which help make it seem more real. Actually there’s a lot of stuff like that, there’s nothing visually that seems fake. The environment they’ve created looks like people live there, and have done for a while. One scene in particular stands out; when Kate Mara’s character (I wouldn’t really call her the protagonist, and I’ll go into that later) is speaking to Toby Jones’ character. They’re just watching something on his computer screen, now, ordinarily you can just do that and it will be fine. But they did something different here, they wrote notes on post-it notes and dotted them around the room, notes on the facility etc. This really helped the world seem real and they should be commended for that. Also, Morgan, the title character, isn’t too heavily featured in the opening section. The scenes of her are either from far away, or the security footage which is almost overhead, as such you never really get a good look at her, you just see her through people’s descriptions of what she’s like. This is a masterclass in setting up a character, a masterclass in which they forgot to do the final exam and just spat on a piece of paper and handed that in. See when you do something like that, the reveal has to have a certain weight to it, you need the main character to step out of the shadows, or step into frame in a certain way, basically you need to have a moment where it feels like you’re opening the curtains to the character, and this film doesn’t do that. The first main look at this character is just a standard shot, someone’s talking to her and it cuts to her. As such this robs the audience of that “wow” moment, it makes her seem ordinary. Which is another problem I had with this film, most of the time you’re told she’s intelligent and advanced, but she’s not given many chances to showcase this as (spoilers) they don’t have her attack people on a large scale until quite far into the film. As such they have to just have other characters tell you how brilliant she is, then follow that up with things we associate smart people with, like playing chess, listening to opera music, and…..actually that might have been it.
That’s kind of a running theme with the movie, they built up Morgan to be something she’s not. The way the actress plays her is more Children Of The Corn than anything else, but only in the present day scenes. There’s a few flashback scenes where Anya Taylor-Joy REALLY nails it, in those fleeting moments the character is brilliant, likeable, and human, everything that’s not there in the present scenes. No idea why there’s such a stark difference between the two but it’s kind of disappointing. This would be more acceptable of course, if Kate Mara’s character was engaging, but she’s not. She’s not even really the protagonist, which is odd as it means the movie doesn’t really have one. It’s not a problem with the acting, she does brilliant with what she’s given, it’s just the way the character is written means she doesn’t have much substance. There are two characters who I found interesting, Boyd Holbrook’s character, and Michelle Yeoh’s character. Yeoh’s character is really the emotional linchpin of the movie, but it’s not one they do enough with. Boyd Holbrook is given what could be a really unimportant character, the chef. Yet his character has some of the best lines of the script. He’s the only one who finds the character of Morgan a bit “off”, and one of his reasons for doing so is that she made a perfect risotto, and he was unnerved by that as he feels cooking requires heart and passion, things which are inherently human. As such the fact that she managed this shakes his whole belief system and the actor handles it subtly and perfectly. In fact, whilst we’re on the subject, I really think Holbrook could be a fantastic romantic lead in a film, and I hope he’s given the chance.
Honestly I think this film’s biggest problem is another film. Throughout this whole film I was just thinking, “that reminded me of Ex Machina, I really need to watch that again some time”, and that’s the main thing I got from this film, that I need to watch another film again. I wasn’t thinking about this film, I wasn’t thinking about how character’s deaths effected me etc. On the bright side this meant I also wasn’t thinking of the really asinine obligatory twist ending, and I also wasn’t thinking of how much I hated some of the fight scenes as they were cut too quickly so they didn’t flow naturally, it was shot exactly how a student would film it, which is an accurate summary of the entire film actually: a very well made student film.
Creates the universe very organically.
Good side characters.
Some very good shorts.
It feels more expensive than it’s budget would make you think it is.
Lacks a good protagonist.
Really obvious twist.
Waste of Paul Giamatti.
Most things it does well, Ex Machina did better.
The trailer made you think the film would be about Morgan turning violent, but that doesn’t happen until the final third of the film.
In a world where the colour palette of superhero films can mostly be described as Fifty Shades Of Grey (only much more painful) it’s refreshing to see such bright colours in a film such as this. Pinks and Greens are all over the place, it’s like a film taking place in a neon nightmare, and it’s brilliant. It gives the film a unique look, you can take a lot of still photos from this and know that it’s this film.
2. The Performances.
Shockingly, and I don’t think I’ve ever done this before, I’m going to have to praise Cara Delevingne, which is something I didn’t think I’d ever do for two reasons:
Her performance in Paper Towns severely weakened the film.
I can’t spell her name.
But her performance in the first half of this is superb. She plays the part of a woman who’s scared of her internal demons spectacularly. You really see her inner torment, and it’s just subtle enough to not be overbearing and too on the nose. She’s also involved in one of the visual highlights of the film when the thing inside her body starts to come out, and the hands wrap around each other, it’s simple but beautiful.It’s not just her though, Will Smith’s performance almost makes you forget about After Earth.
3. The Characters
This is not an easy sell to casual theatre goers. The most well known characters in this film are Batman and The Joker, and they’re in it for a combined total of about 15 minutes. As such the film has to make sure the audience knows who the main characters are, which for an ensemble piece is not easy. Yet by the time the film ends you feel like you know the characters well enough that most of them have enough background that a solo film wouldn’t be out of the question. Special mention must go to El Diablo, as played by Jay Hernandez. He’s the only character I didn’t really know anything about, I knew about Harley Quinn from various Batman comics, Deadshot from video games etc. Yet his character is really smartly set up, his reluctance to fight makes complete sense considering his back story. His character is one with real emotion and heart.
Iron Man changed the game when it came to music in superhero movies, when they used AC/DC it set a new standard for the genre; no longer could they slack off in the music department, they needed popular rock songs by established bands, and a few classic rock songs in their too. This was perfected in Guardians Of The Galaxy, which had one of the best soundtracks of 2014. This film continues in that tradition, with songs from Black Sabbath, AC/DC, The Animals, CCR littered throughout the film.
5. The Joker
Leto is completely terrifying in it. Just like the joker should be. He owns every scene he’s in and carries a genuine sense of danger and does it in a way that’s completely different to the way that Heath Ledger did it. Heath Ledger’s Joker always seemed uncertain in his own skin, like he was made by his vulnerabilities. Leto’s one is completely different, he’s confident, he’s calm, he’s in control of every situation.
1. Yeah But….
Everything I mentioned on the plus side? They all come with caveats. The still shots look fantastic, but the way it’s edited? Holy hell do they make some of the most basic editing mistakes ever. The shots are not given enough time to leave an impact, there’s quick cuts between different things in scenes which should be slow paced. Whilst Cara Delevingne performance in the first half is awesome, the second half is awful. She seemingly forgets the meaning of “subtlety”, and she does a weird thing with her body that makes her seem like a wooden marionette. The characters bond and start talking about being like “a family” without any reason or bonding moment. Whilst El Diablo’s sacrifice (oh, spoilers), was noble, it made no sense, it would be like you sacrificing your life for your classmates on the first day. Yes there is a lot of good music, but there’s also A LOT of music. There’s so many moments where you sit there thinking “jesus, another f*cking song? We get it, you’ve got an impressive record collection. How about actually working out how to match the music to the scenes?” The Joker is good? Shame he’s only in it for about 10 minutes. Now I’ve seen people complain about people complaining about this. Saying things like “you could tell he was only going to be in it for an extended cameo”. Really? Tell the advertising campaign which was HEAVILY focused around him, or even the posters which had Jared Leto as the second billed actor. He was billed higher than almost all of the main characters. Now, if you were following press releases etc then yes, you knew he wasn’t going to be in it for long. But the majority of cinema goers aren’t people who spend all the time online looking for details about this film, they’re people who see the trailer, see the poster, and decide to see it.
And that, ultimately is the biggest problem, it’s hard to say something nice about this film without having to quantify it. And as with most modern films, the plotting is all over the place. The opening half hour is nothing but blatant character building, with someone sitting there literally telling you about the characters. There are way too many shots of Harley Quinn that are blatant fan-service (and a scene where an entire group of people manages to climb stairs quicker than a lift travels up 5 flights). That, added to the length equals a film which, despite being almost sold out when I went to see it, had nobody stay through the credits. The second the closing credits started,everyone left, and with a film like this that shouldn’t be the case, and it’s disappointing that it is
If you go cinema a lot, go see it. If you only go to the cinema a few times a year, and going is a true event, then don’t make this one of your visits.