2019 In Film Day 5: The Very Good

Now we get into the “seriously?” stage. The one where people wonder how I can be so petty to put a film in this category just for something inconsequential. Truth is, there could be an argument for any one of these being in the next blog (the amazeballs). But this is the most personal, the ones which I really really liked, but for whatever reason, just didn’t make me love them. For most of these, in fact, it will be really hard for me to find negatives about them, to the point where I’m going to come off as a really picky mother-fucker. Some of these films are BEAUTIFUL, and there’s at least one I’m genuinely surprised didn’t get more Academy Award nominations.

Ad Astra

Oddly enough, this film is timeless. Yes, it’s about space, but really the story it’s telling could have been written hundreds of years ago. It’s a story about exploration and isolation. Replace “space” with “Ocean” and “spaceship” with “regular water-based ship with cannons and things” then this story would still work. It came at just the right time for me, I had just seen *shudders* Wolf and needed something to reaffirm my faith in cinema. This was perfect for that, a fantastic CINEMA film. Sadly you don’t seem to get as many of them any more, films where you really gain something by watching it at the cinema (and to those who say “Endgame”, f*ck off, you’re wrong. I watched that on a plane and didn’t lose anything from the movie, unlike the time I tried to watch A Quiet Place on a plane and it just did not work). How this didn’t get nominated for more Oscar’s is a genuine mystery to me.

Original review here

+The sense of scale is awe-inspiring

-Lacks emotion at times.

Beautiful Boy

I kind of want to put this in its own section. Because it was better than good, but it wasn’t as good as Ben Is Back, which wasn’t good enough to be awesome. It’s a shame that this film came out the same year as Ben Is Back to be honest, as it means comparisons will be made between the two. And when you do that then this film can’t compare. It’s a shame as this film is still really good on its own merits. The central performances are believable, and it looks great. It’s a great depiction of the effect addiction can have on families.

Original review here

+Breaks your heart at times

-Everything it does well, another film does better.

Ben Is Back

So damn good. In the last few years I’ve come to really love the work of Julia Roberts. Her work in this is superb, the emotional frailty is there to see, but you still recognise her as a badass. This film does a great job of humanising addiction and showing us why it happens. Importantly it’s the first film in a long time which talks about the role of the medical profession in causing addictions.

Original review here

+Will break your heart

-I appreciated it more than I loved it.

Blinded By The Light

A film which had a genuine love for Springsteen. This film showed the power of music, just how it can affect peoples lives. Music changes everything, and this film shows just how. At times it was genuinely heartwarming. So what stops it being awesome? There are quite a few moments which seem pointless, particularly the opening. There are also moments where you get the feeling the film only had the budget for a select few Springsteen songs so there’s quite a bit of repetition. It’s a shame as with a few tweaks this could have been great.

Original review here

+The general feeling it gives you.

-Viveik Kalra’s performance is occasionally flat.

Captain Marvel

This film is not just good, it’s also incredibly important. When I originally reviewed it I said:

I did genuinely love this movie and it’s likely to be one of my favourites of the year.

I was wrong. Now I’ve had time away from it the flaws have become more apparent. The big one is the complete lack of narrative tension. We know she survives this movie, so we always knew she’d be fine. The CGI was ropey at times, and the soundtrack was just not good (one scene, in particular, was made a lot worse by the choice of music). On the plus side, it was a lot of fun, and Brie Larson is pretty much perfect in it.

Original review here

+A great popcorn movie

-The turn is super obvious

Good Boys

Very, very funny. It’s marked down because of one scene which totally took me out of the film. Sat there watching it and thought “they should definitely be dead”. It’s also excruciating to watch, but in a good way. It reminds you of how much of a dick you were when you were younger. If, by the way, you’re reading this and thinking “I wasn’t a dick when I was growing up” then that means you’re still a dick now, and just haven’t realised it. Sorry, those are the rules.

Original review here

+It has a refreshingly suitable attitude to women. The women in this film aren’t just props, they’re fully developed characters. That’s depressingly rare in this genre.

-The one scene.

Joker

Yeah, that’s right, I’m putting it in this blog, not the amazing one, come fight me. Actually please don’t, I have the muscle mass of a damp tea bag. The more distance I have from this the less I like it. I don’t think it would have the audience it does if it wasn’t for the batman connection, but those parts are the weakest of the film. Yes, Phoenix is amazing as the lead, but the rest of the cast are sorely underused to the point where it seems like a waste of a lot of good talent. It’s also incredibly unsubtle and derivative to the point where it doesn’t so much wear its influences on its sleeves, but fashion an entire suit out of them. It in no way deserved all the academy awards it was nominated for, I don’t get how anyone can genuinely say the costume design for this was better than Rocketman for instance. This film reminds me of Fight Club, in that a lot of the audience is made up of angry white men, and if you mention anything bad about this film they do not take it well at all. Seriously, mention to someone that you don’t like Fight Club and prepare for a lecture on how you’re wrong and it’s the best film of all time you’re just too stupid to understand it, it’s the same with this. And I don’t want to be part of a fandom filled with that mention assholes.

Original review here

+Phoenix is amazing.

-Tremendously overrated.

Jumanji: The Next Level

Actually really enjoyed this movie. The cast improved upon their performances from the first one. It’s exactly the same as the second one, but bigger. The stakes are higher, there are more characters, it’s all a very natural progression from the previous one. Plus it makes me really excited to see what’s next, so it has to be deemed a success. The downside? I don’t think I’m going to purchase it on DVD until after the next one has come out.

Original review here

+So funny.

-A bit obvious in places.

Long Shot

I really enjoyed this film. It’s incredibly smart and funny, and it’s just what’s needed right now. It has a lot to say about gender in a supposed “post-feminism” world. It does a great job of showing how “but we’re all equal now” is bullshit. It helps that it’s REALLY funny. On the downside it is a bit long, the opening especially feels like it drags.

Original review here

+Incredibly important.

-Very predictable. You’ll be able to guess the whole story by the trailer.

The Lego Movie: Part 2

Not as good as the first one, but I feel part of that might be due to expectations. Nobody had any expectations of the first one being any good, so it’s thought of as being better than it really is (don’t get me wrong, it is still REALLY good). This one had the expectations of that already there, plus of The Lego Batman movie (which I personally love). I would consider this better than the first film if it wasn’t for the opening. The first half of the film is incredibly dull. The second half is amazing though, full of emotion and incredible depth. It’s the first film I’ve seen which seems to realise that being overly serious is not the same as being adult. Not enough films will outright state that that is just as juvenile.

Original review here

+The message is incredibly important, and one I haven’t seen in a film before. It’s essentially “it’s okay to enjoy things. Being happy is valid”

-The first half doesn’t really work

Zombieland: Double Tap

If you liked the first film, you’ll love this. That’s all there is to it really. The pacing is a little off and one of the sub-plots really feels like it drags the film down. One of them has a pacifist character who is really underdeveloped and we’re not really sure how he’s survived that long, could have been interesting to find out. On a plus side; the chemistry is still there between the leads, and it’s a lot of fun to watch.

Original review here

+Bill Murray’s ending cameo is perfect

-Not necessary. 

Ben Is Back (2018)

Damn you Cineworld. This film, for whatever reason, wasn’t shown at my local cinema. It’s weird, they had trailers for it, and posters up, but then didn’t show the actual film. It’s a shame as I really wish I saw this with other people. It’s a film that’s crying out for witnessing alongside people so you can see their emotional reaction. I really liked this film. I thought it would suffer from being very similar to Beautiful Boy. In reality, all it does is make Beautiful Boy look worse. It makes it seem slightly more selfish in comparison. I’m not saying it was selfish, but that film ended with details about the family the film is about, whilst this one ends with details for addiction centres to contact if you’re suffering too.

There’s one other moment where this film definitely wins out for me: when it shows us WHY the character is addicted to drugs. He got put on highly addictive pain medication by his doctor. This information is showcased in the best possible way; by having Julia Roberts approach the doctor who prescribed them saying they’re not addictive (and who is now suffering from dementia), and basically calls him an asshole. It’s a great scene, and it’s one which showcases an ugly truth that the world tries to hide; the role of prescription drugs in drug abuse. Drugs addicts are usually showcased as having their journey start with “they wanted to be cool so sparked up a marijuana doobie at the discotheque with their fellow cool cats” or “Their parents asked them to tidy their room so they rebelled by injecting heroin into their eyeballs”. This allows us to not care about drug users as we see them as junkies and losers, which makes it easier to dehumanise them and support policies which harshly punish them (and ironically driving them more towards drugs). This means that any form of funding for addiction centres is pushed against because “they’re just loser junkies, they shouldn’t get government help”, so that money instead gets spent on expensive bottles of whiskey for politicians (that’s not a joke btw, the houses of parliament has a fully taxpayer-funded bar which has led to at least one politician getting so drunk he couldn’t vote, which is his job. If I drank at work I’d be fired). This film shows HOW addiction can start, and how it can happen to literally anybody with the way the medical system is operated which decides to just throw pain pills at everything because things like physical therapy will take too long and doesn’t make drug companies any money.

I guess I should actually start talking about this film, right? Fine *sulks*. I’m starting to really like Julia Roberts. I didn’t at first as I saw her as emblematic of what I dislike about Hollywood, style over substance with really bland stories which just play it safe, over sanitised films you feel you’ve seen before you’ve seen them because of how formulaic they are. Those films don’t allow you to see much performance as a lot of the characters are flat and don’t get to showcase much genuine emotion. Lately, she’s been in some films that show how talented she really is. Her performance helped to anchor Money Monster (which is a real forgotten gem), and she is BRILLIANT in the remake of Secret In Their Eyes. Her great run continues in this. Her anger, pain, and the emotional frailty this situation is giving her are all over her character and she performs them perfectly. Lucas Hedges also continues to show that he is really f*cking good. He’s in a weird position as he’s been critically acclaimed, yet hasn’t yet gone into full mainstream where you can use his name to sell a film to a casual audience. I feel he’s nearly there though. He’s just one film away from fully breaking through, and when he does it’s going to be magnificent. He has a great future ahead of him, and I look forward to it.

So yeah, if you get a chance to watch this, you have to see it. It’s that damn good. It’s emotionally devastating and beautifully ugly.

Beautiful Boy (2018)

Okay so the last two films I’ve seen, well they have not been the best. Actually, it’s not been a great last month or so really; I Love My Mum, Bright Burn, Songbird, Dark Phoenix, it’s been a bad run. With a few notable exceptions (Spider-man, Toy Story) I couldn’t be blamed if I was slightly losing my enthusiasm for film. The last film I really enjoyed that wasn’t part of a franchise/reboot was Late Night. I’ve been crying out for something unique and good. Okay, this is based on a book so isn’t technically original, but it is very very good. Incredibly emotive and stylish. It’s a story about a teens addiction, and his family’s reaction to it, particularly his dad. This is not just a story about addiction, but also about family love. Their relationship is integral to the plot, and you completely buy into it. The big problem with it is how distracting it is to have Amy Ryan and Steve Carell reunited on screen and have it be so serious, they were a great comedic couple on The Office, so it’s weird to see them together and have it be so serious. Other than that weirdness, the cast is pretty solid. Carell is so good at being serious that at this point it no longer comes as a surprise. His chemistry with Timothee Chalamet is electric, you genuinely feel like they care for each other. It’s also great to see Jack Dylan Grazer in more stuff, he’ll have the lead in a sitcom at some point, I guarantee it.

It’s also a great-looking film. Don’t get me wrong, there are no shots here which you’ll frame and hang on your wall, but for Van Groeningen’s English-language debut he really shows what he can do, using his shots to tell a story, framing characters in such a way that just by a single shot you can see character relationships. There’s a stark brutality to some of the shots

I’m not saying this is the perfect film, but it doesn’t have any major negatives to it. It’s almost two hours and does kind of feel it. Also, there are moments where it seems to make certain insinuations about what caused the addiction. I don’t think some of them are deliberate, but someone with a knowledge of film language won’t fail to see the (possibly unintentional but still uncomfortable) implications.

But that aside, it’s still definitely worth your watch. I’m trying to think of one word to describe it and all I can come up with is; beautiful. It has a timeless quality and feels like a film that’s always existed, highly recommended.