Puss In Boots: The Last Wish (2022)

Quick Synopsis: Puss in Boots discovers that his passion for adventure has taken its toll when he learns that he has burnt through eight of his nine lives. 

I like the Shrek films, but that’s it. The first is a very entertaining film, but they’ve suffered a weird identity crisis since then. It’s only natural, the first one was a parody of fairy-tale stories, mocking the tropes and cliches that they contain. But after it was a success, the franchise became the very thing it was initially parodying. It still made jokes about the tropes, but it was doing it from a place of now being part of the club. There hasn’t been a new entry in the main franchise since 2010, probably because of the poor reception to the fourth one. Most of the people who enjoyed the first ones are now adults with jobs, bills to pay, and a favourite ring on the hob (Bottom Right, btw). So is there really any desire for this, especially one from the director of The Croods: The New Age?

The opening doesn’t fill you with confidence, a standard fairy-tale opening about wishes. You’d be forgiven for expecting that you won’t so much watch this, as suffer through it.

Then something happens; Puss In Boots dies. It’s okay, as he’s a cat so he has 9 lives. Well, HAD 9 lives, and he now has one. This kicks off the main theme of the film, one that’s obviously perfect for a kid’s film: Existential dread.

It does an excellent job of displaying that dread, it’s probably helped by one of the best pieces of sound design I’ve ever heard. That sound is genuinely haunting, and wouldn’t be out of place in a horror film.

Also wouldn’t be out of place in a horror film; the villains in this. Anybody who played The Wolf Among Us knows what you can do when you take fairy-tale villains seriously (as opposed to what people usually mean when they say “adult fairy-tale characters” which just involves dressing them in sexual clothing and giving them tattoos). Goldilocks and the Three Bears as a crime family makes all the sense in the world. The true villain is Jack Horner, the characterisation of him is one of the most horrific adaptations you can make. I don’t say that lightly, this film is shockingly dark at times. A good example of this is when a plant eats someone. It doesn’t just do a “plant goes nom, the person disappears”, the plant leaves a skeleton. He also shoots his own men with a unicorn horn that causes them to explode.

It could be argued that the villains are TOO good. There are three separate villain stories here, and all of them are worthy of a lot of time and exploration, but because they’re all in the same film they occasionally fight for space. It does lend the film a slight manic energy that’s reminiscent of It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World (or for modern audiences; Rat Race), but that doesn’t happen enough.

The action set-pieces are unique, especially when they take place in the middle of ever-changing landscapes and everything flows together in a manner that reminds me of Spider-Man Into The Spider-Verse. Some of them could be improved slightly, there are a few too many elastic physics moments that pull you out slightly, but it does mostly work.

The voice cast is pretty good, with some returning from previous films, and some new. The only small quibble is that Florence Pugh and Olivia Colman sound quite similar at times. It’s weird to hear Ray Winstone in a kid’s film, but it works for the character. Harvey Guillen as Perrito was an inspired choice, meaning a character that could be annoying is actually lovable as hell. Mulaney does what he needs to as Jack Horner, but he’s definitely not the highlight.

So yeah, go see this, it’s much better than you’d think it would be. Just leave about 20 seconds before the end so you avoid the disappointing sequel hook.

Halloween Ends (2022)

Quick Synopsis: The final (for now) film in the long-running Halloween franchise.

Initial reviews for this were not promising. Early indications were that this was a massive disappointment, one of the most disappointing and poorly written horror films of the year. I was okay with that, people hated Halloween Kills and I actually preferred it to the original (by which I mean the sequel). A lot of people hate when movies go weird, yet I tend to like it. I crave originality and weirdness, and I tend to have an affection for things which are weird and unloved (except myself, obviously, even I have limits), so whilst I knew there was a chance I’d dislike this, there was an even higher chance that everybody else was a big stupid doo-doo head and were wrong. There have been many films in the past that I have LOVED and yet haven’t seemed to receive that same love from critics and large audiences; Table 19 being the most obvious, but even Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which I actually dreaded watching because of early reviews, yet was one of my highlights of last year. Maybe this would continue that run.

Spoilers, it doesn’t. This is not a good film. It feels like a cheap knock-off of the last two films and I struggle to comprehend it’s by the same people. What I loved about Halloween Kills is how it felt like a natural progression, that is how a town would react, with suspicion and fear. For a few days at least the whole place would be a powder keg ready to ignite. Kills was about a town in recovery, Ends is about a town in denial. Think of how Kills ended: Michael Myers was surrounded by a group of townspeople, and he killed them all and walked on. How would a town react to a seemingly unkillable monster wreaking havoc and killing everybody before walking off and not being seen again? Well, according to this film the town responds by doing absolutely nothing. Towns don’t do that with tragedies, large sprawling cities might, but there’s nothing to suggest Haddonfield is like that. Look at places which have fallen victim to mass shootings, they’re still haunted by it. There’s a multitude of different interesting ways this film could have gone, it could have the town turn into a police state, ruled by fear and giving up liberties “for the greater good”. It could have been a weird tourist spot, where the town’s inhabitants are forced to relive their worst day, again and again, to bring money in. It could have even have been a hotspot for conspiracy theorists who deny the killings exist, like those cuntheads Richard D Hall and Alex Jones do. There’s nothing in this which makes it feel like a town in recovery.

It’s not even the town, the named characters seem inconsistent too. Between the two Halloween films (the 70’s one, and the 2010’s one) Laurie Strode spent the time in fear of Michael Myers coming back. So what does she do now that Myers has come back and killed her daughter? She moves into a cosy house and lives a normal life. Logically, she would have thought “my defences weren’t enough, I need to be stricter”, not the other way around.

How about Myers himself? It’s hard to tell as he’s barely in it. The Michael/Laurie showdown is what the films advertising campaign was based around, so it’s disappointing that it’s really the only part he’s in. I’m all for different sequels, but this is a poor way to end this story. If it was the second film in this modern trilogy, it would be more acceptable. But having this as the closer feels like a waste of a story. The end of the film itself is spectacular. and is the perfect ending to the story. It’s good that it does have a definitive ending to the saga, but the rest of this film is pointless. It hints that the Evil that is haunting Myers will continue, and it’s that source infecting Corey (the new killer in this movie) that caused him to break bad.

I’m not opposed to a film about someone taking on the mantle of Myers and going on a killing spree. But the way it’s done here is baffling, Corey accidentally kills a child (in a great scene), is demonised by the town, and nearly dies. Perfect for a “I will get revenge on this town by bringing back their worst nightmare” story. But this isn’t that, what seems to happen is Michael goes to kill Corey, they look eyes and share a moment which turns him evil. Corey had enough of a backstory that would have explained his motives, and the magic eye soul bullshit thing just muddies the water. I would argue it’s worse than the Martha scene from BvS.

There is definitely an evil force that is haunting this film, ruining everything and making things worse for everybody. But it’s not Evil, it’s Corey. I mentioned his character’s relationship with Michael being weird, but his relationship with Laurie’s niece Allyson makes both Laurie and Allyson seem worse characters. It forces both of those characters to act really inconsistently. Laurie is writing a self-help book about not letting fear rule your life, but Allyson accuses her of being too negative, purely to cause a narrative split. It’s a shame as all the performers are great, from a technical standpoint it’s superb. It’s directed well, the soundtrack is brilliant, and it looks fantastic. But it’s hampered by possibly the worst script I’ve seen all year.

This was supposed to be the end of the Halloween saga, but all it’s done is make me want another one, but this time good. This CAN’T be how this franchise ends, it’s too shit. It should have gone out on a high, not gone out as if it was written by people who were high.

Amsterdam (2022)

Quick synopsis: Three friends who witness a murder, become suspects themselves, and uncover one of the most outrageous plots in American history.

This should be the type of film I like. It’s a star-filled cast in a movie based on an underknown aspect of American history (the Business Plot of 1933), it should be fun. If not fun, it should be interesting and a fascinating watch.

It’s not though, despite having all the ingredients of a film I like, the end result just didn’t do anything for me. I think a big issue is the pacing, it’s far too long, and doesn’t use the time well. It spends far too long setting up the mood and time, meanwhile, the narrative itself stands still. A good story is a long-distance runner, it varies the pace when it needs to so it keeps momentum until the end. This film approaches narrative like I approached long-distance running, going way too fast for a minute, and then having to stop for 5 minutes to get my breath. It’s really unfocused, giving us backstories and explanations that we don’t really need.

It also has a huge tonal problem. The subject is very serious, about an attempted coup against the United States government, and the mistreatment of veterans from the first world war. Yet the film is written, directed, and performed like a madcap caper. As the Western World is flirting with fascism, showing the concept of dictatorships our thighs and fluttering eyelashes, it’s hard to take films like these as lightweight. Especially when it’s trying to make parallels to modern times (as in, times which are modern, not the Charlie Chaplin film, which is actually more relevant today). The film wants to be taken seriously whilst not being a serious film. “hey, the threat of fascism is looming and business owners want to control every aspect of your life and kill those you hold dea-oh look, someone fell over, tee-hee”. It also doesn’t feel like the characters are taking it seriously, they all seem too self-aware that they’re not in any danger because they’re the main characters.

It’s a shame as the story is one that should be told, just not by this writer. Adam McKay would have been a better shout to do this. The way he handled The Big Short shows that he can do films of this nature well. David O.Russell doesn’t feel the right choice for this. Then again, I didn’t like Joy or American Hustle much either, so maybe it’s just I don’t vibe with his style. The performances are also really good, there’s not really a weak link, and the three leads have excellent chemistry.

It’s also very very funny. Getting some great reactions from the people I was in the cinema with. Not just small laughs, full-on belly laughs that you rarely get in audiences. I feel this could be edited into a better film, but at the moment it’s just too much of a challenge to get through. I might watch it again if it’s on Netflix and I can skip certain parts. But I’m not going to go out of my way to see it. Mainly because it feels like a film, and more like a drunk guy at the pub telling you a story.

Fall (2022)

Quick synopsis: Becky is attempting to get over the death of her husband Dan. Her friend Hunter suggests climbing a 2,0000 foot radio tower in the middle of nowhere. It does not go well for them.

There are different levels to enjoying a film. Sometimes you find it really funny, sometimes it discusses themes that you identify with and thus is very important to you, and sometimes it’s so technically brilliant that you have to admire it. This, I enjoyed in a weird way, in a “I want this to be over now. I want to leave” way. I’ve watched quite a few films I’ve hated at the cinema, and I’ve stayed to the end. Even when I know the film isn’t going to get any better, I stay, the thought of leaving never really entering my head. But this? This I felt like leaving. It was so tense, so nauseating that there were times I wasn’t sure I could handle it. At one point I heard at least three people utter variations of “nope, fuck that” and leave. There are moments where you know they’re not going to die there because the film would be over very quickly, but you never get past that “oh fuck no” part of your brain. People are not supposed to dangle from a 2,000 foot tower by one hand so you can get a good picture! It goes against that evolutionary part of your brain that says “FFS don’t do that”.

This feeling of panic is helped by how well directed it is. Scott Mann did a fantastic job of making you feel the panic and terror the characters are going through. He frames everything in a way that you cannot help but be constantly reminded of the peril they’re in. Once they’re up the tower, everything feels real and you sense the height. A lot of films struggle with backgrounds like that, even in big-budget films like Captain Marvel the backgrounds look fake and 2-dimensional. Sadly the start of this has the same problem. It’s weird as the tower scenes look so good, but the moments when the three characters are climbing rocks at the start look quite fake. It’s a disappointing start to the movie and really gets it off on the wrong foot. After that, it picks up, and once the husband dies (spoilers) it improves a lot. Becky becomes an alcoholic recluse who lashes out at those who try to help. Grace Caroline Currey gives a superb performance as someone who is completely broken, and Virginia Gardner does too, but in a different way. There’s a mid-plot revelation that completely changes the dynamic between the two and they play it perfectly.

The revelation is one that you do see coming, I can’t imagine anybody being shocked by it when it is revealed. A part of me thinks this was deliberately obvious so it could set you up for another reveal later. It is so busy distracting you with one hand you don’t realise the other hand is stealing your wallet. It’s very smart storytelling, especially when you consider that the story is very simple. What this story does very well is set things up that pay off later. There’s a certain piece of dialogue which you think is a mistake (and one of the characters actually lampshades) but really it’s foreshadowing, so damn smart.

A lot of people will be put off by this film, and it is a difficult thing to sell to people without it sounding kind of boring. Yes, a lot of it is just two people on a surface the size of a small table. But it’s incredibly engrossing. I think part of this is because it has a longer set-up than usual, you know and like the characters. The audience sees what they’re like outside of this situation, so when they act out of character it actually means something. The opening is brilliantly paced because it kind of calms you down and puts you in a serene state of mind. It also means that the tower slowly breaking as the characters climb it is milked for every possible piece of tension. It’s like winding a jack-in-the-box toy, you’re just there waiting for it to pop up.

So in summary, this is one of the best cinema experiences I’ve ever had. A great film that will put you on the edge of your seat and you’ll be thrilled by. But you’ll never ever want to see it again.

The Batman (2022)

Quick Synopsis: Bruce Wayne has to deal with a serial killer known as The Riddler, and also responsibility and past trauma.

I’m going to get the obvious out of the way, this is a LONG film. But weirdly enough it earns it. It’s a bit like watching a 3-hour video of Piers Morgan being punched in the face. Yes, it’s long, but you still wish it was longer. There are a few scenes that could be cut down slightly, but there’s not very much wasted. In fact you come out wanting more, you want to see more of these characters, of this world. And it’s such a well-defined world. Gotham is almost a character in of itself in Batman media, and if you get it wrong it can really harm it. Think of how weird it looked in Batman And Robin. Usually, the way studios do this is to have it feel old, like it’s from a 40’s noir. In this it actually feels like a living city, you can imagine walking around it and living in it. It’s amazing how small things like “bright advertising boards and crowds” helped it feel real.

It’s not just Gotham, this film GETS who Batman is as a character. There’s a moment I didn’t actually notice the first time I watched it. Near the end, Batman is rescuing a group of people from a collapsed building/flood. When he approaches the people who need saving, they don’t respond with “Oh thank you, It’s Batman here to save us”. They recoil in fear. They’re scared of him. He has set himself up as a figure of fear and vengeance to scare criminals into going straight, but in doing so he’s scared everybody else too. He’s not a beacon to look up to and admire, he’s the boogeyman. He’s what parents use to control their kids. “If you don’t behave/eat your homework/do your dinner, then The Batman will get you”. It’s because of that that he realises that he needs to start doing more to inspire people to do good. So yes, this film is set in a time where Batman already exists (and has already put Joker in Arkham by looks of it), but it is still before he is Batman. He already has the fighting skills, the clothes, the vehicles, all that was missing was the hope, it was the final piece of the puzzle.

There was a lot of people doubtful that Pattinson could pull this character off. He nails it. He is a fantastic actor and this could be the film that makes people realise it. There’s not really a weak link in terms of performance, and it’s full of “oh, it’s him” casting. Paul Dano is surprisingly chilling and completely redefines Riddler from a joke to a psychopath.

Part of that redefinition is due to what Reeves did with the film. This isn’t an action film, it’s more of a detective drama/psychological horror. It’s a fresh and unique take on the character, and one that’s really obvious when you think about it. It’s one of the few times in modern films where we actually see him do detective work, being very careful not to damage crime scenes, use logical deduction to come to conclusions etc.

I have spent this entire review just gushing over how much I loved it, and it’s for a good reason. It’s genuinely incredible and I am in awe of what was created. Go see it.

Médecin De Nuit aka The Night Doctor (2020)

Quick Synopsis: Mikaël (Vincent Macaigne) is a doctor on night call. He looks after patients from underprivileged neighbourhoods, as well as drug addicts. We see his nightly work as he’s torn between his wife and his mistress, and embroiled in trafficking fraudulent prescriptions.

The trailer had me excited. It looked like it was going to be incredibly intense and dark. And while watching it, I was on board. But the longer the film went on, the more my fondness for it dulled. It’s one of those films which you think is really good as you watch it and see it unfold, but after setting up all these narrative dominos, it seems to get bored and wander off, so it just leaves you feeling unsatisfied. It’s a shame as there are some great performances in here, and some incredibly tense moments. But overall a lot of it feels inconsequential.

I know this sounds cheap and goes against my usual “all about the narrative” viewpoint. But this needed a gimmick. Maybe it would have worked if it was done as a one-shot, as that would have shown the chaos he’s going through, and his panicking would have seemed real. But considering how much driving is in this that would have been difficult. The best bet would have been to have it like Locke, all take place in real-time. Most of the conversations with his wife could have been done over the phone. as could his dilemma with the mistress and cousin. It’s hard to love this film knowing that if they did it another way it would have been SOOOO much better. The character in this is supposed to be panicking and feeling trapped, but we never really get that. We never feel much emotion for him and his troubles, we just feel like an observer. It’s not helped by the fact that the longer the film goes on, the less you buy him as a character. He overpowers seasoned drug dealers too easily and at times it feels like self-insert fanfiction. The only person he doesn’t seem to easily physically overpower is his cousin, he goes from “quickly punching people in the face and taking them out ” to “awkward grabbing”.

That moment comes just after he had a fight with notorious drug lord Ossip, who is one of those characters who is supposed to linger over the entire film, but in reality, doesn’t. You don’t feel his presence looming over when he’s not on screen. He’s not built up as a danger. If we saw him executing somebody, then he’d feel more of a threat. As it is you don’t really get that “oh no, he has to do this or that drug lord will harm his family”. The film tries to fix this with the ending, but the way they do it seems cheap and is done purely to get the sympathy of the audience with the main character. That’s the issue the whole film has, by the way, it doesn’t know how to treat the main character. We’re supposed to sympathise with him, but he’s quite unsympathetic. But done in a way that constantly justifies all his bad decisions. It’s like the writers want to create a morally complex character, but want to ensure we still sympathise with him.

The King’s Man (2021)

Quick Synopsis: World War 1 spy shit

First off, that’s a weirdly awkward title. It feels like it’s designed to confuse people who are asked to get it as a Christmas gift for someone, they’re definitely going to accidentally get Kingsman. Awkward title aside, this is a fairly fun movie. The biggest flaw is that it doesn’t really feel like a Kingsman movie. Spy movies are usually full of futuristic gadgets and technology, so I was curious as to how this would be done in the past. Turns out, they don’t. The closest they get is “this is a parachute”.

It’s not as slick as the previous films are either. There’s nothing that comes anywhere close to the church scene from the first one. That’s kind of to be expected as those scenes were based around music, and with this being set during the first world war it would have been weird if they played modern songs during it, so the options were limited. Also, since the society isn’t set up yet, you don’t have the style that the other two films have. So this is a Kingsman film without the gadgets, the music, and the style. You know, the three things which are the cornerstone of the franchise.

It is weirdly fascinating though. It does play fast and loose with historical accuracy, but then there are moments that are more historically accurate than they need to be. Rasputin really was that difficult to kill in real life, he was poisoned, shot, then shot again when he got back up. Also, the moment where Archduke Ferdinand was killed was more accurate than you’d think it would be. He really did survive an attempted bomb attack, and then end up being shot because his driver took a wrong turning and ended up going past a cafe where Gavrilo Princip was sitting, who just stood up and shot him and his wife. I’m sure there are even more historical bonus’s that I missed, and I look forward to finding out about them.

If you look at this outside of being a Kingsman movie, it’s fine. It’s entertaining, it’s funny, it’s violent, and it’s interesting. There are a few small missteps though. One is the pacing. There are moments that are far too slow and plodding. This film is over 2 hours long and you can easily lose about 20 minutes I’d say. Especially at the start before the reveal, we know where the film is going and it takes far too long to get there. The other issue is the reveal of the “big bad”. It’s far too obvious. If a film like this keeps a character in shadow and doesn’t let you see their face for most of it, 99% of the time it’s because it’s a character the audience knows. Chronologically this is the earliest film in the series so it can’t be someone from one of the other films, and there’s really only one person the film has been introduced to that it could be. It’s way too obvious and incredibly disappointing, even when the film tries to misdirect you by thinking that character died, since you don’t actually see him die, you know he probably survived, that’s just basic film language.

If they revealed him at the start it could have been better. Yes, you would have lost the shock, but you would have gained tension. When you saw him in a room with one of the good guys, in the back of your head will be the worry that he’s going to kill them.

There are moments of greatness though. There’s an almost silent action scene set in No Mans Land which is incredibly ballsy and unique. Actually, the best parts of this film are when it’s on the frontlines, they provide the pathos needed, great action scenes, and fantastic character work. That section is disappointingly brief but does lead to a moment that will surprise the hell out of you. It’s one of the few genuine shocks I can remember seeing unfold on screen for quite a while.

So in summary. See this, but you can afford to wait until it hits television screens.

The Boss Baby 2 (2021)

Quick synopsis: No, I’m not summing up this up. It’s too stupid, watch the trailer.

I’ll start off with the obvious. This is not a good movie, for most of it it’s not even watchable. Fundamentally it suffers the same flaw as the first one where the general concept isn’t buyable. It’s not like Toy Story where you can imagine toys coming to life. There is no anchor of reality to ground yourself in. We know the reality of babies, everybody alive was at some point a baby, so there is no truth to the lies this film tells. This specific plot doesn’t work either. So they have to become babies again to infiltrate a school, right?

1) they need to be babies.

2) Why does it have to be them?

I’ll answer both of those questions: because we, the audience know the main characters as babies and we need to see them like it again. It only happens because this is a film, more specifically a sequel. This film establishes that Tims daughter Tina is a boss baby too. So why didn’t she do it? She wouldn’t need a special potion that turns her into a baby briefly, she already is one. She has all the connections, and she already knows what to do and what to look for etc. The film says her real mission was to bring the two brothers back together. What do they care? The brothers are initially brought together by a faked voicemail, but it’s so obviously fake that it wouldn’t actually fool anybody.

Now onto the biggest issue I had with this film: it takes place a MUCH longer time after the first one than most sequels (I’d estimate about 20 or 30 years after). Instead of focusing on Tim as a kid again. We are introduced to his kids. This means that the returning characters have completely different characterisation, because they’ve aged 30 years since the last time we saw them. So really we don’t know these characters. This goes for the relationships between characters too. It’s based on his relationship with his brother. But it’s completely different from the last time. Because the last time we saw these characters they first met and had a frayed relationship, then started to get on with and love each other. This takes place when they are estranged. But we never got to see them in a decent relationship really (except for like 10-20 minutes at the end of the first one). So the entire thing is based on relationships and a past which we haven’t been privy to. It’s like we’ve missed the back story we need.

There is some consistency for the characters, but it just makes the film worse. Tim is still talking to his toys and imagining them coming to life. That made sense in the first one because he was a child, and that’s what children do. But now he’s an adult, so it just comes off as kind of weird. He has kids and yet still has the mentality of one. This is what happens when you have a sequel featuring characters who are the same, but are at fundamentally different stages of their life.

It signposts the jokes way too much. There’s one in particular which you can guess about 3-4 seconds before it happens. It doesn’t try to subvert it in any way, it plays the joke completely straight. The original film was released 4 years ago, so the audience who enjoyed the first one would have matured, but this film hasn’t. It’s like it’s aimed at people who only discovered it in the last year. 4 years is a very long time in childhood. The difference between a 5 year old and a 9 year old is immense in terms of taste and likes.

Now onto the good. Jeff Goldblum is perfect in his role. Kind of. His voice is perfect for the character, and it looks perfect for him in still images, but he moves in such a jerky way (think standard annoying youtuber) that it is distracting and weird. It also does that thing almost every film does with holograms where it makes them glitchy and broken. No matter how much of a genius a character is in a film, they can never create holograms which actually work. The movement doesn’t match his voice either, he has the voice of someone who either stands still, or paces back and forth, not jump around all over the place. Also, his character is not a boss baby, just a baby who is intelligent, so why does he have an adult voice?

Other things on the plus side: the line “they’re going to send in the Baby Seals” made me laugh a lot. And there’s a musical interlude which is sweet, creative, and incredibly heartfelt. It’s everything the rest of the film should be but isn’t. It’s almost Pixar-esque. Such a shame the rest of the film doesn’t come anywhere near.

Here Today (2021)

Quick Synopsis: Comedy writer Charlie Burns (Billy Crystal) forms a friendship with local singer Emma Payge (Tiffany Haddish) and starts depending on her more and more as he begins to suffer from the effects of dementia.

What is it with 2021? Normally you get a film about dementia every few years. This year there’s been three. Annoyingly, all three have been really good but in different ways. The Father dealt with the frustration of being deep into it, the confusion and panic that causes and the absolute hell that is daily life for not just the person suffering, but also the close family members. Supernova was based on the fear of knowing what’s coming, and wanting to exit it before it happens. Also the fear of loved ones watching it happening. This? This was different. This was more about coming to terms with it yourself and trying to hide it from others out of some misguided sense of pride.

All three have had one really important similarity: the performers are all a certain type, they all play people who are normally in control of the room. Anthony Hopkins normally plays people who are in control of situations. Stanley Tucci normally plays people who are smarter than everybody. And Billy Crystal normally plays characters who’s minds are quicker than everybody else, so they always have a quip ready for any situation. I’m not sure if the casting implications were intentional or not but it’s brilliant either way as it means we see them out of their comfort zone.

As an audience member I have a strange view of Billy Crystal, I never really seek out things he does. But I will always be glad to watch something he’s in. He’s clearly got a great comedic mind that never feels like bullying. His voice runs through this film, not just because he’s in it (obviously), but he also co-wrote and directed it. It’s not just about him. He’s confident enough as a writer and a performer that he allows others to take the spotlight. In this that shared spotlight goes to Tiffany Haddish, who I’ve seen before in Keanu, Lego Movie 2, and The Kitchen. She does a great job here, her character could be annoying and unlikeable if played by someone else. She provides her with enough humanity and warmth that even when she is doing incredibly cliche things, it works and you love her.

That is a downside of this film. It occasionally feels like you’ve seen a lot of it before. You will know what’s happening before it happens most of the time. But that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable because the way they do it is still great. It’s like a rollercoaster, just because you can see the track coming up doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.

There are a few moments where it feels like the film is slightly going off the rails and it has a chaotic energy that really wakes you up. There’s one scene in particular which stands out, when Crystal’s character interrupts a live recording of a TV show he works for to chastise the performers delivery. It’s genuinely hilarious and the reaction from it gives you a very warm feeling. It’s a scene that’s really needed as it closes off one of the running jokes, and it’s also the last big laugh scene of the movie. After that it gets very serious. You need that comedic high before you go to the depressing lows, it accentuates both beautifully. When this film hits, it hits hard. Part of that is because of how funny it is, the mood whiplash the film provides is perfect.

This is not a perfect film though, the plot is a little bit too predictable at times, and the moment where he has a “moment” at work in front of colleagues is never really followed up on enough. It felt like they couldn’t think of a good way to carry on that story, but ignoring it means that a huge part of his life and character is ignored, and it would have been nice to see how the cast react to the news. Either they’re told, and we get to see their concern or worry. Or they just get told he’s gone away, and we see how they react to that. As it is it’s just dropped and forgotten.

There are also moments where it seems to be veering into rom-com territory, which is just strange to watch and doesn’t really work. It works better when they focus on the friendship and don’t bother with the romantic side (which they don’t up dealing with anyway).

Is still a really good watch though. The writing is brilliant, as are the performers. I now want to see Louisa Krause in more things, there’s something of the Helen Hunt about her and she is just incredibly loveable in her role as his deceased ex-wife. Her scenes are a good example of the best and worst of the film. The flashbacks are all from his POV. It’s a brave move that takes some getting used to but it makes sense, it’s his memory so that’s how he’ll remember it. It really puts you in his shoes. Sadly she has an appearance at the end which doesn’t really work for me. Crystals character goes to a cabin they shared, he’s there with his family being all cosy and facing the future, and gets a vision of her sitting nearby. I get what they were going for but it didn’t really work for me and just seemed a little silly. Would have been better if it dissolved from him and his family there, to him and her there in the past talking about the future. Would have given the film a moment of visual beauty, which it doesn’t really have enough of (the beauty mainly coming through character moments).

The section leading up to that shot is great though. His family being told about his condition, and the instant 180 from “we hate him” to “he’s our dad and we need him, we can’t have our final interaction be what it was” is believable and is genuinely making me tear up just recalling it here. That’s what this film leaves me with. Not the dull final shot, but the emotion the whole thing made me feel. Truly beautiful and I highly recommend it (plus the ending is made up for by Haddish doing a Bob Dylan cover, which I truly didn’t expect).

My Spy (2020)

I mentioned in my review of Stuber last year my hope that this would be the film that causes Batista to go from “oh yeah, that guy” to “THE guy”. Sadly that’s not the case. This film is predictable, the villains are SEVERELY underdeveloped, and a lot of the actions of the characters don’t make any sense if you think about it for more than a minute. It’s also REALLY fun and well worth a watch.

Yeah it has some flaws, but I seriously doubt you’ll regret watching it. It’s funny, sweet, and has enough unique parts to stand out. It sets its tone very early on with a hostage situation that turns into laugh out loud comedy, and a reference to Iron Man 2 (although if the MCU exists in this universe, who played Drax?), and then plays a car chase to foreign language covers of I Will Survive and My Heart Will Go On. It’s a cheap laugh, but it’s a laugh nonetheless. It’s also something you don’t really expect in this film, a bit like the high number of Notting Hill references compared to most comedy action films.

Now when I say “things that don’t make sense” they’re mainly character-based mistakes rather than impossibilities. For example he stands in front of a class and admits he’s a spy. Number one on the “list of things needed to be a good spy” would be “never mention you’re a spy” yet he never suffers any backlash from this. (Number two on the list, by the way, is “a preference for cheese sandwiches over ham”, I don’t know why that’s important, it just is.) It’s strange as he suffers for other things he do which aren’t spy-like, but not for this. It’s a very sweet moment, and incredibly funny, but like I said it doesn’t make that much sense. I mean, it is worth it for his description of his time in the service when he mentions killing people: “they were all terrorists, human traffickers, or really annoying”

One thing is made abundantly clear in this film: Batista is f*cking huge. You don’t normally notice it because he’s paired up against similarly muscled men. But when you see him standing against normal people, you realise he’s a massive human being. Like, scarily large.

So in summary I think you do need to see this. It’s not like “omg that was so smart and brilliant” but near the end they think a helicopters about to explode so she begs to do a slow cool-guy walk away from it. it doesn’t blow up so he throws a grenade at it so she can do it. How can you not love a film like that?