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.

Rons Gone Wrong (2021)

Quick synopsis: A socially awkward child gets a robot friend that is broken.

A lot of people like this film, I’d heard some very good things about it. My opinion? It’s okay. It’s not something I regret watching, and it is better than you may think it would be, but it’s not among the strongest kids films of the year (that probably peaked at the start with Soul and Luca).

It was recently made available on disney+, and I feel that’s a good decision. This film was made for family watching, everyone gathering around a television on boxing day and watching together while they’re too full of cheese to move. And as good as this film is, I’m not sure it will be in the public consciousness this time next year so they had to get it on there now to make use of its recent cinema appearance and positive reviews.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about this film. It has heart, it looks FANTASTIC, and the cast is full of people you love. It has a good mix of people you expect and respect (Olivia Colman), actors you’re kind of surprised but it’s nice to see (Ed Helms), and then some strange choices that you can’t help but love (Ruby Wax).

This isn’t the first film to look at the growing encroachment of technology into kids lives, but it does do it better than others have tried, mainly because it seems to actually understand the technology. Watch something like The Emoji Movie for comparison which seemed like it was written by people who still call all video game consoles “Atari”. The interactions between the characters and technology are so realistic that it seems hauntingly dystopian. The humans themselves aren’t quite as well done on their own though. There are some moments between the characters in this that don’t really feel true, some interactions between them don’t feel earned.

Really the biggest downside is it came out the same year as The Mitchells Vs. The Machines, which dealt with similar topics, also had the main AI developed by a young black developer (Justice Smith in RGW, Eric Andre in Mitchells), and both feature Olivia Colman. So comparisons are inevitable, and when you do that, this can’t help but look weaker by comparison. It’s a shame, as look at it on its own and this is a fine movie. But it does seem destined to the Shark Tale to Mitchell’s Nemo.

Promising Young Woman (2020)

Quick Synopsis: Cassie (Carey Mulligan) attempts to get revenge on behalf of her friend Nina, who was raped and committed suicide after the perpetrator wasn’t punished.

It’s about time I got round to this. This, and French Dispatch are the last of the films from this year that I missed that I felt I needed to watch. I’m not gonna lie I was slightly apprehensive that this wouldn’t live up to the hype. Everybody was praising this film to the moon so I needed it to be really good otherwise I’d be bitterly disappointed (as opposed to just a bitter Lee, which is my default state).

I have to say I didn’t enjoy this. But that’s a good thing, this isn’t a film to be enjoyed. It’s supposed to frustrate and annoy you. You’re supposed to hate people a little bit. I’ve seen some people describe this as “anti-men”, it’s not, it’s “anti-rapists and people who enable rapists”, I get why some people might be confused by that and think they’re the same. I mean, they’re idiots but still.

That’s to be expected though, with a film like this you’re always going to get some negative responses from people who have completely missed the point. The biggest example of this was Variety’s review, which said Carey Mulligan wasn’t hot enough to pull the role off, describing her as looking like someone in “bad drag”. First off, Mulligan is fucking hot (and a great actress who NAILS every moment of her performance), but that’s not really the point. When she pretends to be drunk and a guy takes him back to his flat to take advantage of her, he’s not just doing that because she’s super hot. It’s not as though he’s sitting there at the bar going “hmm, she’s only a 7/10, I can rape someone better”.

The casting of the rapey fuckholes is perfect btw. They mainly consist of people who are normally known for playing likeable good guys. So when their true intentions come forth it means more. The world has this notion that rapists are all fat, disgusting, skeezy-looking men, ones who attack strangers walking alone at night. People don’t like thinking of them as “guys who knowingly take advantage of drunk women”, because if they did, it would mean they have to reevaluate their past behaviour.

That’s really what this film is, it’s about evaluating how people deal with and talk about rape victims. From the people blaming the woman for it because she was drunk, to the people who want to protect the rapist as they “don’t want to ruin their lives over a silly mistake”, to the lawyers who do their best to make the victim seem untrustworthy. They’re all things that the world is familiar with and put up with.

That’s why this film is so difficult to watch, it feels too close to home in a lot of ways. Also, outside of those (important) concepts and ideas, it does feel a bit too much like a series of scenes rather than a definitive narrative. There are moments where it could be tightened up a bit, particularly her “romance” with Bo Burnhams character. It feels rushed and ungenuine. That’s a real shame as it means that when the truth about him comes out, it doesn’t feel as crushing as it would otherwise. It should be a real “oh no, even HE is like that”, it should break you. It doesn’t, because you don’t really care about him, or them as a couple.

It’s a shame as if that was improved it would be a 10/10 film, as it is it’s just an 8/10. Still very good, but this has been a FANTASTIC year for films similar to this. Maybe if I saw it at the start of the year I’d have warmer feelings towards it. But with the memory of other films, it can’t help but feel slightly lacking. Still a great film with a killer soundtrack though.

Petra’s-spective: Update 1

Update to this

Very quick update today. And possibly the least indicative of what I’m going for with this script. This is the opening, where I’m showing the Petra’s sitting down to watch the film. This is mainly to not only introduce the characters, but also to introduce the different filming styles. I know it may seem like I’m spending a lot of time on the introductions, but that’s mainly because I need time for the differences in the visuals and audio to become apparent so that when they happen later in the film-within-a-film it’s easier for the audience to understand what’s happening without having to actually explain it.

So, here’s the opening, hope you enjoy it.

I do give a peak of the fictional film there and I had to try and remember what christmas films were like back then. Decided on rap because it was used as shorthand for “cool”, and chose Silver Bells because a rap version of that actually exists and I love it.

That’s the tricky part, those films were generally terrible and I have to remember that, but I also need to make sure that this script is actually still watchable. So it needs to kind of suck, but in an entertaining way. That’s a really tricky balance to do and it’s not going to be easy, should be fun though. I just need to make sure my love for the genre shines through.

Ninjababy (2021)

Quick Synopsis: Rakel is shocked to find out that she’s 6 and a half months pregnant in this strange but wonderful Norwegian comedy drama.

Try to think of what film this could be based on that title. It’s actually a strange coming-of-age drama. The closest I’ve seen to it would be Juno, but tonally it’s different. That was quite twee and cute, this has more of a punk and comic-book energy. If they were people, Juno would sit there and read Jean-Paul Sartre, Ninjababy would be reading Persepolis.

Everything about it works well. Almost, the music seems a little wrong. I kind of want to watch this in Norway as it feels like the music was changed for the international release to be a bit more commercial. There are some moments where it works, but otherwise, it just seems like “generic pop song #52” over the soundtrack.

Kristine Thorp is wonderful in the lead role. It helps that she’s incredibly well written. It would be easy to make this character unlikeable. To have the audience reaction be “ffs just sort your life out for once” and think of her as someone who put herself in the situation by being irresponsible. She’s written well enough that you are with her every step of the way. Helped by her performance too, her facial expressions when she finds out she was 6 months pregnant, not 8 weeks, is devastating. She looks terrified, responding “take those fucking pills and shove them up the pill hole”. I have never seen Thorp in anything before, but has some of the best visual acting I’ve seen in a long time. At times cartoonish and exaggerated, at times subtle and realistic. She’s perfect for this, and without her this film would not have the heart that it does.

You wouldn’t expect a scene of someone shouting “Blood and suffering!” would be as heartwarming as it is when it’s done in this. I have no way of leading into that sentence, and no way of coming out of it, but I felt it needed mentioning.

Home Sweet Home Alone (2021)

Quick Synopsis: Disney kills your childhood

When I look back on this year there will be a lot of trends I will think of in regards to film. 2021 was the year of female leads fucking shit up (The Columnist, I Blame Society), weird Nicholas Cage films (Pig, Prisoners Of The Ghostland, Willy’s Wonderland), and terrible sequels/remakes of things from the 80s/90s (Space Jam, Tom And Jerry, Coming 2 America). This belongs in the terrible sequels/remakes, but also fits another trend this year: I’ve watched A LOT more stuff online this year. Some have been brilliant, some have…..really not. I think this is the first year since I started this blog that the number of new releases I’ve watched at home has been bigger than the number I’ve seen at the cinema. That…….that kind of sucks to be honest. The advantage of watching at home though is that I get to make notes while watching it. This means that when I type up these incoherant rants I insist on calling reviews, that I can reference parts I otherwise would have forgotten. My notes while watching this? Well, they’re not really detailed. They’re just two sentences long:

  1. THAT’S NOT HOW PHYSICS WORKS!
  2. Just step to the side.

The thieves in this are idiots. There’s a moment where icicles are dropping from a roof as someone runs underneath them. If he stopped running then by the time he moved forward all the icicles would have already fallen, he’s really just walking into his own torment. I mean, it works cinematically because you might not realise that, but if you do, it ruins it. There’s another one where they walk on lego, instead of just, you know, sweeping it away. The worst “trap” is one that’s SOOOO stupid and unbelievable. He wakes up with VR goggles on which make him think he’s standing on the edge of a canyon in the middle of the day, instead of the reality which is he’s standing in a house in the middle of winter, in clothes that are covered in snow and soaking wet. Somehow this fools him, despite you know, him being able to feel his wet clothes clinging to him, him being cold, and there being no wind. I mean, I don’t want to be brag but I reckon that even if I closed my eyes I could tell if I was outside in summer or inside in winter in wet clothes. But some of us are just built different I guess.

But if you shut your brain off then it’s still funny, right? Well, no. The first two worked because you knew what Kevin was like, the film spent a lot of time with him so he was definitely the main character and you sympathised with him. This goes in the other direction, it gives the thieves a tragic back story. They are not looking for money or jewels, they think the kid stole something from them and they need to get it back because if they don’t then they will lose their house and end up thrown out on the street with their family. So we sympathise with them, a small part of us wants them to succeed because they’re obviously good people, and they’re scared of what will happen if they don’t get the thing back. This makes it less funny when you see them get set on fire or have snooker balls launched at their heads. Coupled with how damn annoying and brattish the kid is and it seems less “Christmas comedy” and more “Spoilt rich kid tortures poor people for his amusement”, it’s comedy, but only if you’re a rich sociopath who takes joy in the suffering of those less fortunate than you (Hi Donald, Boris, merry Christmas).

It’s a shame this is so bad as the cast is incredibly talented. It’s baffling that people as talented as this would be in a film this bad. It’s a massive disappointment, and one that I kind of expected.

Annette (2021)

Quick Synopsis: The tale of an opera singer (Marion Cotillard), a bitter comedian (Adam Driver), and their opera-singing daughter Annette (a marionette puppet)

Not going to lie, I was apprehensive about this. I thought it would be a bit too “arty” for me to enjoy. Make no mistake, this is a weird film. But it’s weirdly enchanting. This is a real head fuck. I am still in shock. It’s not a film I watched and found myself investigating the characters and the narrative, this is something I watched and just let envelop me. It was an EXPERIENCE. It feels like something unique and special and I really wish I got a chance to see this earlier.

There’s a company called Luna Cinema who do outside screenings of popular films in unique locations (a lot of them are on the grounds of medieval castles). I would absolutely LOVE to get an opportunity to watch this film in a situation like this. One where the screen is comedically large and you get to experience it in a way that you’ll always remember.

There’s a real flow to this. The music flows into each other, the performances flow through with an almost ballet-like precision and rhythm, it’s apt that one of the core scenes takes place on a boat as watching this feels like you’re floating down a river.

The music is PERFECT for something like this. The soundtrack was composed entirely by Sparks (best known for This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us), and their music is perfect for a film like this. The weirdly etheral and violent tone their sound has suits being the musical accompaniment for a film, especially a film that makes the narrative choices this one does. On the downside, their unique vocal takes are INCREDIBLY hard to recreate. There are times where Adam Driver is a little flat but that’s only compared to what you know Sparks themselves would sound like, so considering what he has to do it’s to be expected that he wouldn’t nail it 100%.

So in summary, I’m not sure whether I loved this film or not, I’m not sure I would show it to others, but I know I HAVE to watch it again, I know I have to experience the complete package that this film presents, and I know there’s a chance every single person reading this will absolutely hate it.

Pig (2021)

Quick synopsis: Someone steals Nicholas Cage’s pig.

This……..this was unexpected. From that synopsis, and from knowing what else Nicholas Cage has been in this year I expected it to basically be John Wick but sillier. This is completely different. For a start it’s much more nihilistic, it doesn’t really have a happy ending, it’s just super depressing throughout. It’s also lacking in action/fight scenes. There’s a scene where he walks into a fight club and you think it’s going to be a “kick ass and take names” style action setpiece. Nope, it’s just him being punched in the face by chefs he’s criticised in the past.

It’s a good summary of this film, bleak, dark, and hits hard. It’s genuinely one of the most intimate and personal films you can hope to find this year. Nicholas Cage is actually really good in it too. He has a reputation for his performances being over the top and containing more scene-chewing than that scene in Willy Wonka where they eat the scenery. But in this, he’s incredibly subdued. He’s performing like a man who has lost everything and genuinely just wants to be left alone to wallow in his sadness.

That’s the word that sums it up: Sadness. From the colour scheme through to the story and the characters, it’s all just so sad, but in a cinematically beautiful way. The ending in particular is just someone playing an audio tape and it’s one of the most hauntingly beautiful things you will witness all year.

So yeah it’s a weird film, but one I think you’ll be glad you see.

Red Notice (2021)

Quick Synopsis: An interpol agent attempts to track down a jewel thief. In reality it’s much much more complicated than that.

Disposable. That is probably the best way to describe this. Don’t get me wrong, at no point while watching this will you be bored, you will be thoroughly entertained throughout, and if a sequel came out you will watch it. But will you NEED to see this film again? Probably not. It’s good at what it does, but you’ve already seen everything it does before, it brings nothing new to the table. Ryan Reynolds does his usual shtick, and gets partnered with a violent stronger person who he initially disagrees with and you wonder if they can trust each other before true friendship wins. Blah blah. I’ve seen it all before. It has the usual twist and turns and they are surprising, but again, they’re not new.

The film can’t even rely on the action scenes to carry it through. They’re too video-gamey. You know how back in the days of Tony Hawk’s games the levels used to be designed in a way to be skateable, so the fences and rails would all be placed in a way that was designed with the video game playability in mind first before realism, that’s how this feels. It’s like the world was designed in such a way for action set pieces, so there’s no sense of realism or weight to the scenes, which robs them of any tension. Although let’s face it, you’re not going to get much tension in a film starring Ryan Reynolds and The Rock anyway as you know that the studio is aiming for a franchise, so they’re going to keep both alive.

It has some good parts. It’s very funny. The story has more twists and turns than a roller coaster, and Gal Gadot is funnier than she’s ever been (outside of her Imagine video obviously).

It’s hard to feel too disappointed, but it’s also hard to feel too pleased. It’s hard to feel anything. It’s popcorn movie. Sometimes that’s all you need, sometimes that’s all you want. It’s going to be a success, but I don’t think it will be anybody’s favourite film.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)

Quick Synopsis: Hah, like you’re watching this for the plot

I went in with low expectations. Everything I had heard about this was negative. If I saw an article online about it it was how it was a disgrace and never should have been made. These articles were backed up by the lack of advertising I seemed to see, I don’t recall seeing a trailer at the cinema for it at all, the only pre-release marketing I saw was the car doing a display at a local shopping centre. I actually went in on my own because I didn’t want to drag anybody else to a disappointing film.

That was a mistake, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I’ll be honest, it has a different energy from the 80s films. Those were madcap quick ones, they had the SNL energy which a lot of comedies had back then (the influence that show had on 80s American comedy movies cannot be understated). This does have an 80s energy, but a different one, it almost seems Spielberg-ian. The warmness, the sense of adventure, the incredibly likeable characters, it’s all wonderful and very lovely.

I wish Paul Rudd was in it more, considering how he was heavily mentioned in the pre-release things I did see, it’s disappointing how small a part he plays in it, especially since his character has such obvious chemistry with some of the other cast members. His chemistry with Callie (played by Carrie Coon) is the main focus when it comes to his character, but he has a really interesting dynamic with Phoebe too. Of all the characters in this, his definitely seems the most underdeveloped and wasted.

I kind of expected that if there was going to be comedy, it was going to come from him. Nope, most of it comes from two other characters. Podcast, played by newcomer Logan Kim is an unexpected highlight. Really this film belongs to one person and one person only. A character who I watched and thought “wow, this is a REALLY good performance, that character could be an insufferable know-it-all but whoever is playing them is doing a really good job of making them likeable”. Then I saw the closing credits and figured out why, it’s Mckenna Grace. I genuinely believe she’s the most talented young performer in the world at the moment. She’s normally relegated to “Young version of the main character” in films like I Tonya, Captain Marvel, and Scoob. But when she is given the chance to lead a film she is incredible. The best example of this is Gifted, where she manages to outshine Chris Evans. Important note: she filmed that when she was NINE YEARS OLD. If she picks the right projects I genuinely believe she could end up being the most acclaimed performer of this generation. She completely nails every part of her performance here and delivers some of the biggest laughs, and some of the weirdest jokes I’ve seen. They’re deliberately bad but also still kind of funny, but definitely weird. There’s one in particular which stood out because I’m still not entirely sure if I dreamt it or not:

“How is a hamster like a cigarette? They’re both harmless until you put them in your mouth and set them on fire.”

There’s also a delightful moment where she makes a geometry pun (which did just remind me of this and this tbh) and then when asked if it was intentional says “yes, that’s why I winked”. It’s delightfully awkward and cute and I loved it.

Now onto what I didn’t love. Theoretically, you could go into this having not watched the originals. It does a really good job of catching you up on the universe and the events of the first two films (the 2016 version goes curiously ignored). The story itself does a good enough job of that. But there are some directorial choices that won’t work for newcomers and are just kind of embarrassing to long-time fans. There are too many REALLY unsubtle references. One that stood out was when the camera focuses on a twinkie for a good five seconds or so. It being in the car was enough of a reference, the camera focusing on it for that long is just embarrassing and is basically the director saying “Hey, I’ve seen the original!”. Like, we hope so considering your dad made it.

The directing is the weakest part, it has the right amount of heart needed, but it’s lacking a sense of playfulness and fun that I feel would help it. It’s in an awkward stage where it’s not directed in a playful enough manner for the comedy, but also isn’t dark enough for the horror elements. He nails the emotion though, especially at the end. I didn’t expect to hear tears in the cinema during a Ghostbusters movie, but there we are. Also, stay around for the two credits scenes. Very fun.