Aquaman (2018)

Before I saw this I accidentally glimpsed a review that stated this film was “The DC Black Panther (and much better than the MCU one). To which I say…….nothing because I’m too busy laughing. Aquaman is good, but not better than that. It looks great at parts, and the opening fight scene is better than a lot of the Marvel fights purely on the basis it doesn’t do that “cut before every punch lands” thing that Marvel does, it holds on the action so you see contact and it makes it seem real. But that opening fight scene? Takes place like 15 or 20 minutes in. Before that we get the character backstory. So, we get the backstory to someone we’ve already seen in two movies already. A backstory that’s not really needed, certainly not seen. All of it could have been just dropped throughout the film. I mean, yeah that would have meant not opening the film with Nicole Kidman, but it would have meant opening the film with your main character. The way it’s done is like it’s trying to build up audience excitement to see the character, like it’s building up his appearance, but we’ve already seen him in other films. By the time the character comes around I was actually kind of bored., which was my main issue with the film, it was WAY too long. It’s nearly 2 and a half hours, yet contains only 2 hours of film. There’s A LOT of filler in this movie, so many moments just happens to either pad out the runtime, or because they want to put an action scene in.

There are a few other problems, but a lot of them are personal preference. Like people dismiss the idea of Atlantis existing, but this is a world where Superman exists, and Aquaman has been seen with him. The catfish is out of the bag when it comes to heroes etc in this universe, you can’t pretend people are surprised or don’t believe in this.

I have been negative against this film, and I think I’m making it sound worse than it actually is. Truth is, it’s not a bad movie, it’s just dull and formulaic. There’s very few moments in it which will surprise you, it mostly does EXACTLY what you expect it do, all the time. I find it hard to hate this movie because it does have moments of greatness (the way they play with the “random biker assholes start a bar fight with the main character” trope was hilarious), but not enough of them, and they’re usually just fleeting. Also, the main villain reminded me too much of Randall from Clerks and it kept putting me off:

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Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (2018)

Before I start on this review I have to give out the biggest negative about it, and it’s one that will stop many people seeing the film. This film has intense flashing lights, so if you have epilepsy, or have sensory processing disorder, this might not be the film for you. That’s actually really annoying that that was not publicised. I mean, shouldn’t films that do that have a warning? We have warnings for “contains mild peril”, but not this. That’s…..really fucking weird and needs changing.

Now, onto the film…..this film loves the character of Spider-man, you can tell this by the way it mocks him sometimes. It’s like the lego batman movie in that way, it does make fun of previous films, but it’s done with such knowledge and love. This is a different kind of comic book movie, for one thing it’s REALLY weird. It’s a film for kids that deals with multiverse theory, didn’t get that in Thor (well you might have done but I didn’t pay attention because it was awful, or Thor-fal if you’re the type of person who feels the need to cram puns in where they don’t fit). It’s incredibly meta, but not too much so. None of this would matter if the actors didn’t put effort in, but the voice work here is great too. The film-makers didn’t skimp when it came to casting, you’ve got real talent here: Hailee Steinfeld, Lily Tomlin, Nicholas Cage, Liev Schreiber, Kathryn Hahn etc.

I mentioned the intense flashing lights earlier, apart from that this film looks SUPERB. The animation is some of the best you’ll see, with multiple styles displayed across the film, each incredibly distinct and gorgeous. The fight scenes are done brilliantly too, you never lose track of whats happening, the final fight in particular is a masterpiece of surreal film-making that plays out like a AAA video game boss level.

The soundtrack too, is amazing. It really suits the film, the songs are not only great but they go perfectly with the images. It does what a soundtrack should do, it complements the film perfectly. It also features what has to count as the best and most heartbreaking Stan Lee cameo ever. This is the first film released after his death (not counting the Deadpool 2 re-release), he appears on screen after Spider-man dies and says “I’m going to miss him”. F*cking heartbreaking. The most depressing part of the film, and there’s quite a lot of them, I mean, the original Spider-man gets killed early on, and all the alternate spider-men/pig/women are haunted by a death of someone, they’re defined by guilt about who they could not save. This is the best time to mention the characterisation of the different universe characters; they are all fully fledged characters with motivations and back stories. This could be a film to launch a franchise.

I honestly believe this might be the best Spider-man movie ever made, it’s VERY close. But yeah, the no warnings about flashing lights of that nature is hard to look past.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018)

The most positive thing I can say about this film? They tried. They really tried hard. They tried to build off the amazement of the first film, create their own story, set up a universe, and tie it into the Harry Potter universe. They really tried. The trouble is; they failed. Badly.

It’s like they didn’t really care that much, to the point where it seems like bad fan fiction. They didn’t care about carrying on the legacy of the first film, the ending of which was slightly heartbreaking and sweet and wonderful and completely undone within the opening 5 minutes of this film. Let’s remind ourselves of what happened at the end of the first film: Grindelwald is captured, and Dan Fogler’s character has his memory wiped. Opening of this film; Grindelwald escapes, and Fogler’s character didn’t actually lose his memory (this is explained in the worst bullshitty way possible, that’s so bad I won’t spoil here, but needless to say there is no way it was planned).

They didn’t care about creating their own story, a lot of issues people have bought up about this film have had people respond with “but it might pay off in a future movie”. No, fuck that. It’s okay for a film to be part of a series, but it needs to stand on its own two feet to be considered worthy. It’s fun to bingewatch a movie series, but if bingewatching it is the only way the movie is good, then you’ve failed as a writer.

They didn’t care about setting up a universe. As mentioned before, so many of the moments which are intended to set up the universe, just end up being annoying and frustrating the audience.

They didn’t care about tying into the Harry Potter universe. They messed around with McGonagall’s age so that she’s middle aged and working at the school before she should even be alive. They made Nagini human, which kind of makes Neville Longbottom a murderer, and COMPLETELY changes the nature of Voldemort and Nagini’s relationship, makes a it a lot creepier. It’s a bit odd really as both of those things didn’t need to be done. McGonagall being there didn’t add anything to the plot and nothing would have been lost if they just made her a completely different character. Nagini, also, never really came into the plot. They also don’t seem to understand the Mirror of Erised, treating it like a magic flashback machine.

There are other issues with the film too. A lot of the action scenes aren’t really very cinematic, and consist of people waving their arms about as pretty lights go around. It’s not an action sequence, it’s a light show. It also has an ending that’s so bad I’m not going to mention it.

 

 

Actually you know what? Fuck it I’m mentioning it. It turns out Ezra Millers character is Dumbledore’s brother, no, not the one who got caught doing things with goats, the other one, you know, the one that has NEVER been mentioned or even alluded to at ANY point. Yes, it surprises me, but that doesn’t mean it’s good. If I ordered a pizza and got a piece of shit, I’d be surprised, but I’d also be annoyed and feel cheated. And that’s how I feel about this movie, I expected pizza and got a turd.

I feel it has to be said that Jude Law does make a GREAT Dumbledore in the extremely few moments he’s in this film. If it was focused more on him, I’d have enjoyed it a lot more. Also, the set design is BEAUTIFUL, the whole universe looks fantastic. It also has just enough charm to carry it through the worst parts. And finally, whenever I type the title of this film into my phone it autocorrects it to “Fantastic Breasts”, which makes me laugh as it sounds like something from Wallace And Gromit.

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“Cracking breasts”

I know it seems like I’m being overly harsh on this film, and I am. But it should be better. I’m not expecting it to be the best film of all time, but I’m expecting internal logic and consistency. People have been following Harry Potter for years now, and it deserves a lot better than this.

Mortal Engines (2018)

I’m still entirely unsure how I felt about this to be honest. I’m kind of glad I’ve seen it, but I never need to see it again. For one thing, the characters were all incredibly dull (and there was a lot of them), most of the characters have no chance of being remembered as great YA movie characters in years to come. Tbh I can barely remember their names. There’s two possible exceptions: Hester (not, as I thought, Esther) has a definitive look and backstory which at the very least means you remember her. I get the feeling she was better developed in the book, and they cut a lot out to fit the film. I mean, her character backstory is well developed, but her non-flashback character is kind of bland and not there. There’s another character called Shrike (who I thought was called Shrek until just now) who is a great character, but is disposed of far too easily. He has a heartbreaking backstory hinted at, and could easily be a bigger part of it. I think that’s my issue with this film, it goes through about 3 films worth of concepts in one, but doesn’t really flesh out any of them.

It’s also far too long. This would be fine if it didn’t feel so long, yet so much of the time in this is wasted with stuff that ultimately means nothing. Even Shrike, great character that he is, only seems to exist in the story as a way to move the characters on. That’s all he seems to do for a lot of it, turn up, the characters move, he turns up again, the characters move again. In some senses he’s not a character, he’s a plot device.

Tonally the film is a bit all over the place, random references to masturbation are followed by deaths. It takes itself far too seriously a lot of the time, as such it’s just, well it’s not very fun. It’s a film about moving cities, at the very least it should be fun to watch. I mean, it’s GREAT to look at. Props to everyone involved for the designs of the places themselves. The trouble with a lot of films similar to this is there’s so much CGI that everything looks super clean, buildings end up looking like pieces from video games. In this everything looks REAL. You look around at the background and see decaying buildings, wear and tear on machinery etc. THAT’S the art of great set design, creating little imperfections can make a world seem perfect. Similar to that, the world design is fantastic, there’s a LOT of lore and world history to unpack here. Although I do have to point out one thing very early on that annoyed me: they imply that people using phones and computers caused them to forgot how to read. Have you been on the internet lately? It’s 50% people getting your/you’re mixed up, and 50% people shaming the first group of people. Also, don’t criticise something for “dumbing people down” when you’re a dystopian YA movie that makes references to Minions.

So yeah, see this at the cinema, maybe watch it at home if you’ve got a big enough TV to take it all in, but it’s hard to recommend that you watch this for any reason other than the scenery. 10/10 would play a video game of this though.

Creed II (2018)

I’ll start off by saying this film is incredibly predictable. From the trailer you can probably guess every single plot point in this film, you know how it’s going to end before the film even starts. You know what though? It doesn’t matter. This film is so greatly done that you get completely invested in it even though it’s predictable. The other downside: visually it’s only ever okay. This would be fine if the first Creed film wasn’t one of the best looking boxing films ever made. The way the first film approached some of the fights was a true masterclass in film-making, it made you feel like you were in there with them and you felt every single hit. This…..doesn’t do that. I mean, the fights are shot well and they look good, but there is a noticeable drop in quality between the fights in this one, and the fights in the first one. There’s no stand-out fights here in terms of technical brilliance.

Other than that small niggle, this film is great. It’s so good it retroactively makes Rocky IV better by giving more emotional depth to Drago.  That’s something this film does very well; creates believable bad guys. You know exactly why they’re doing what they’re doing, they’re the heroes of their own story, and you can easily imagine them being the protagonists of another film. It managed to turn a cartoonish villain into a 3-dimensional one, and for that it definitely deserves applause. The Drago’s are also responsible for a surprisingly poignant moment near the end where (spoilers) Ivan Drago’s wife (and Viktor Drago’s mother) realises Viktor is going to lose the fight, and walks out the building with her new husband so she’s not associated with them. At that point you see Ivan’s heart break and he realises what he’s become, so throws in the towel to stop the fight. It’s not quite enough to make him a good guy, but throughout the film it’s hard to say they’re definitively bad guys either. It’s not just their performance though, Michael B Jordan plays Creed like a slightly cocky shit, but one with intense emotional conflict. There’s a moment here where his character says something to Rocky, and the way Michael plays the character, you can tell that he regrets what he said, but is too proud to apologise or go back on it, so he has to go further and dig himself deeper. This all takes place in a second and is done just by facial performance, it’s a masterpiece to see and is one of the best acting moments I’ve seen this year. Tessa Thompson is also great in this, with her character being given far more to do than she was in the first film. In that she was almost 2-dimensional to the point where if she wasn’t in this it wouldn’t be considered a massive loss. But she is essential to this film, her character is the anchor to Creed, the one holding him to earth, stopping him from spiralling out of control. She has earned her place in Rocky lore, pretty brilliant.

Stallone too brings his A-game, still recognisable as Rocky, but no longer the great boxer. His character has developed brilliantly across the last two films, and it’s great he’s not a “I still got it” character. The character knows his boxing career is in the past, and it’s now his job to pass the torch onto someone else (like Stallone himself is doing with these films).

So yeah that’s this film, if you hated the first film, this won’t change your mind. If you loved the first one, there’s a very good chance you’ll like this too. Well worth watching, anytime a film can be predictable yet still provide enough emotion to bring tears to your eyes is worth watching.

Ralph Breaks The Internet (2018)

I enjoyed the first movie, it was fun, heartwarming, smart, and funny. It was done by people who had an obvious love for video games, specifically arcade and retro ones. This one……doesn’t really work, for many reasons. Firstly, it kind of feels like a generic movie, not a Wreck It Ralph sequel. The first movie doesn’t seem to come into play much here, it’s not a natural progression and feels like it could have been written featuring any characters. There are moments which are specifically these characters, but they are few and far between. There’s no reason for this to be a sequel, and not just a random film.

It also seems like it’s written by completely different people, it doesn’t have any of the natural wit of the first film. Too many of the jokes veer into “this is a thing, we are referencing the thing, now laugh!” territory. There are some funny moments but they’re few and far between. This wouldn’t matter as much if the script was engaging, but it’s not. It’s incredibly bland, I was actually bored many times throughout this. When it approached what I thought could be an ending I was actually disappointed to be proven wrong. There’s an entire subplot about characters from the first movie starting a family which takes up a grand total of about 3 minutes of screentime. It’s kind of strange as you can tell the film was aiming to be emotionally heavy, and that would have been a good subplot to cut to to relieve tension and provide juxtaposition.

Now onto the positive; this looks SUPERB. Every frame is packed with detail, made with both attention and affection. And there are some genuinely funny and laugh out loud moments which remind you of why you loved the first film. The voice acting also has to be mentioned. Everybody is at the top of their game here, even those who only provide a few short lines completely nail it.

Now onto the best part of the film, and for me the only reason to watch it: the Disney princesses. I now want a Disney Princess action movie. The scenes with them in are incredibly funny, smart, and just all-round brilliant. If the entire film was like that I’d say it was better than the first one. As it is, it’s more like The Emoji Movie. And that’s never a good thing.

Assassination Nation (2018)

I was really looking forward to this. It looked like a slick, sleek, violent piece of film-making with a social message. Yeah, that didn’t pan out for me. For one thing, it’s INCREDIBLY slow. It takes about 45 minutes to get going. There’s some setting up the plot, but waaaaay too much, a lot of it is unnecessary. There’s plot points in the opening where bad things happen to people, who then aren’t really referenced again. Really, most of the opening hour could have been condensed into about 15 minutes. The closing section is good though; chaotic, inspiring, and so slick it’s brilliant. It just doesn’t match the rest of the film, the entire film is building up to that section, and it’s that section which has been heavily focused on in the advertising.

I think it’s not helped by the directing. You know how Zack Snyder films are often shot like comic books, with no thought to shot construction and film language? This is similar,  it’s shot like a music video, and not in a good way. It does the “turn the camera upside down as a character walks away” shot a bit too often, and at moments where it doesn’t really work. There are also waaaay too many montages which don’t really add anything. Most of them are just “here’s people” and that’s it. There are also weird editing choices where they cut between scenes in a really jarring manner, where holding on certain characters would have worked better. And an oddly high amount of split screen between characters which don’t really work and are WAY too music video to admire.

The film doesn’t even have anything important to say about humanity, all it seems to say is “people can be dicks”. That’s it. Nothing more than that. Now onto the characters. They don’t really have much definition, they’re incredibly similar, which considering all the build up they had isn’t a good sign. Most of the characters are incredibly 2-dimensional. I mean, for a group of teenage girls to include a trans character is great to see though (even more so when they’re played by an actual trans person), and that does lead to a weirdly progressive moment where a group of jock assholes attempt to lynch the character, and they shout out “string her up”. They correctly gendered her! So if you don’t do that, you’re now worse than someone who lynches people. I never thought “they yelled the correct thing when preparing to lynch someone, yay” would be something I would say, but here we are.

I do have to say though; the closing section is superb. It’s violent and vengeful and fun. It looks fantastic and it’s incredibly cathartic. I just really wish the rest of the film matched it. It just feels a bit….unpolished. The trigger warning montage at the start is pretty genius though it has to be said. Like I said, it has great ideas, just doesn’t seem like it knows what to do with them.

Widows (2018)

I’ve been looking forward to this since I first heard about it. I mean, look at it:

  • Directed by Steve McQueen
  • Stars Viola Davis, Liam Neeson, Daniel Kaluuya.
  • Written by Gillian Flynn.
  • Great story.

So I’ve been following this film for a while, I didn’t bother looking for a trailer as I already knew I wanted to see it (and for some reason the trailer wasn’t played at local cinema), so I went in not sure what to expect exactly, but I knew it would be good.

And it is good. That’s the problem, it’s just “good”. It’s not great, it’s not impressive, it’s just good. I mean, it’s solid, and it’s great from a technical and performance standpoint, It’s just not a great heist movie. Heist movies should, at their very core, be fun. There should be either an air of complete chaos, or the feeling that everything is so tightly interwoven that if one thing changed, everything collapsed. This has none of that. The heist itself never really feels in jeopardy. You never really feel like it’s not going to succeed, this would be forgivable if there was joy in seeing it happen, but there’s non of that either. It happens, but it’s not a great set-piece when it does happen. There’s no art to the scene itself and it feels….hollow.

Actually the entire film feels like that, there’s no emotional resonance to it. Also, it’s way too long. It’s over 2 hours long and there’s a lot of fluff. There’s a “twist” in it which seems to only exist to give someone more screen time and to surprise the audience, if you cut it out it wouldn’t really effect the story that much. Actually there’s a lot here that adds nothing to the plot.

Now onto the good: the performances are superb. Daniel Kaluuya is so convincing as a complete monster that you begin to suspect he might be one in real life, but nope, acting! Viola Davis does most of the films emotional heavy lifting, and when it doesn’t work it’s not because of her, her part in them can’t be faulted. And Elizabeth Debicki plays her part like her character is a flower made of iron.

The directing: it’s okay. There’s no shots that will really stick in your mind in a positive way. There’s a particularly weird scene where they film a car journey by placing a static camera on the front and pointing it slightly to the side so you see what they’re driving past, but you can’t see the people who are talking. It’s kind of weird as it detracts from the dialogue. It’s like it was done just to be a good shot, without any thought of the storytelling language of shot construction.

I don’t get it as McQueen is usually REALLY good at emotional storytelling and shot construction, and in this he seems to have slightly wilted at both.

So yeah, it’s hard to recommend this film, watch it when it’s shown on ITV next Christmas.

I Kill Giants (2018)

I had only read one review of this. It gave it 1 out 5 and called it a bloated mess that lacked any heart. That review is wrong and I shan’t link to it. This is lovely and the main character is one of the best I’ve seen all year. She’s not a likeable character to Sophia (a random English girl who has moved there), but when she’s responding to the bullies or the psychiatrist, you can’t help but root for her. Also incredibly funny. To the point where I will randomly insert her lines throughout this review.

“Do you think spitting on people is funny?”

“not haha funny but existentially yes”

I really really liked this film. It warmed my old cynical heart in a way that not enough films do. It reminded me of some of my favourite kids films of the last few years. It had the magic warm feeling that The BFG gave, the emotional depth of Pixar, the wit of The Lego Batman Movie, mixed with the darkness of A Monster Calls.

“The real problems are giants. Total dicks”

I should mention now that this film is VERY reminscient of A Monster Calls. If you saw that (and if you didn’t, wtf is wrong with you? It’s amazing) and liked it, you’ll like this. This is a film aimed at a younger audience, but it has enough heart and cleverness to it that it will stick with you even if you’re an adult.

“would you describe your job as worthless or utterly pointless?”

I suppose I should now mention the performances. Anybody who has read this for a while knows that I was a massive fan of Madison Wolfe’s performance in The Conjuring 2. I thought she was the best part in that movie, elevating the entire film. It’s the same here. In that film she elevated an ok film to a good one, in this she elevates a very good film to a great one. Someone less talented would have made her quirky character slightly annoying, yet she manages to give the character just enough vulnerability that even in her strongest moments you feel for her. The other performances are good, but overshadowed by her somewhat. Although it has to be said that Rory Jackson is great as Taylor too, she makes the character so hateful you relish seeing her get her comeuppance.

So in summary; see this film. It’s on netflix right now (if you’re in the UK at least) and is well worth your time, no matter what snooty reviewers say. It also gave me my favourite quote of the year.

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Journeyman (2018)

I was excited but nervous about this film. The last film by Paddy Considine I watched was Tyrannosaur, and that was a hard watch, in the best possible way. That film starts with a dog being kicked to death and then only gets more depressing from then on in. This is similar but not as depressing. This is not an easy watch, this is not a cosy watch you can snuggle down and watch with loved ones. This is not a film you can drift in and out of to cheer yourself up. This is a film you need to set out time to watch, turn off all distractions (your cat can go without food for the duration). It’s a film you don’t just watch, you WATCH. It draws you in to the world it’s created and grips you tightly, not letting you go for the duration. I think it’s time we realise that Paddy Considine is a REALLY good writer. He’s never going to be tasked with writing a Marvel film, but he’s definitely got the talent needed to write the best possible episode of Black Mirror.

The way he writes the characters is great, they seem fully fleshed out and all have their own motivations and desires. He starts the movie as champion, boxing movie tradition dictates the story goes like this: he loses the first match. Every boxing movie would start like that. This goes double for this if you know what the story is; it’s about a boxer who suffers a severe injury that debilitates him severely. Nope, he wins the first fight, but collapses that night when he’s at home. This is kind of genius. Most films of this ilk only show ring damage. We as an audience assume that if they survive the fight, they’re safe, that the worst is over. This does a great job of showing the reality, that that’s not the case. Most films, you’ll be lucky if a concussion is still affecting them later on, let alone showing delayed damage like this does. Even before he collapses you see the damage, not so much in the way he looks (cuts and bruises etc), but in the way he moves. He moves like every single inch of him hurts, like just walking causes him immense pain.

That’s just one example of how Considine’s performance is great. There’s so many subtle tics and nuances that make his performance great. It says something that he shares the film with the actress who now plays The Doctor, but he still steals the show. It would be so easy for his performance to border on comical, but the way he does it is heartbreaking.

Now onto the bad; my main issue with this film (and the only bit where I was concerned I wouldn’t like it); the fight scenes themselves. It is possible I’ve been spoilt by films like Creed, which feature some of the best fight scenes ever filmed. Meanwhile the ones in this, whilst serviceable, just don’t seem enough. When the punches land you don’t often feel them (with one noticeable exception), you don’t feel like they’re too damaging. That’s really a minor flaw in the film, and shouldn’t detract from the personal story that this tells. This may not show the best movie boxing, but it’s the best boxing-related movie I’ve seen in a long time. It’s like a British version of The Wrestler, and everybody who has seen that knows why that’s very high praise.