Palm Springs (2020)

I went into this pretty blind. I knew it existed, I knew Andy Samberg was in it, and I knew the poster. The first minute or so were pretty much as I expected: he wakes up and has sex (attempts to) with his partner the morning of a wedding.

Then it gets weird. He seems a little too bored, a little too like he knows exactly what is going to happen at all times. There’s a reason for that, he’s in a Groundhog Day situation and has lived this day multiple times. The good thing about this is the film drops just enough hints that if you’re paying attention you can figure it out before it’s revealed. Before the reveal it is kind of a standard romcom, and then he gets shot by someone who hates him because he caused him to go through the loop too.

So yeah, the opening section sets in stone the notion that this is not a typical romcom. It has far more jokes about suicide than the typical romcom (well, the typical romcom not written by me, at least). It also has a much darker undertone than it appears. He brings up how he behaves knowing nothing has consequences, bringing up the fact that it doesn’t matter if other people don’t remember, you do. So if you do something awful, you will be haunted by it. As he says

“Being a source of terror is not fun and it’s not fulfilling, I know from experience”

That one line gives us so much potential backstory to that character. It hints that he went through a stage where he killed people, where he viciously tortured those who annoyed him (and considering he knows his girlfriend is cheating on him, that gives us some VERY dark possibilities). I love that it hints at that backstory, but never shows us. It gives us the impression that the characters have lives outside of this film, these characters and this world seem real (except the random dinosaurs).

This film does so much right, the performances are all spot on, and overloaded with unsaid character motivations and beliefs. Everybody is on top form, it doesn’t have as many comedian cameos as you think it would. Truth be told I only remember recognising three of the cast members, but even the “unknowns” do their job incredibly well, all meshing together to form a cohesive unit. I firmly believe this may be one of the best ensemble casts I’ve seen in a long time, not a single weak link.

Now the downsides: visually it doesn’t really do much. There is some impressive stunt work in it, but the location itself never feels as paradisiacal as you feel it could. I don’t know whether it’s set design, or directing, but the location itself doesn’t “pop” as much as you feel it should. Also I feel the music could be better, I can’t remember a single song from this film, and considering it’s a summer-based horror-comedy that’s a disappointment. Also some of the montages aren’t quite fun enough. There are some moments where they’re genuinely sweet and funny, but then there are others where they just feel kind of standard. Overall though, well worth a watch. If you have a hulu account (or have a friend with one), it’s on there so you should definitely check it out on there.

Parasite (2019)

I hadn’t even seen a trailer for this before I watched it, but I knew it was supposed to be really good. All I really knew was that it was a South Korean film, and it was VERY good. I don’t think I’ve watched a South Korean film before so I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of cinematic culture. South Korean or Japanese (and yes, I know they’re distinctly different but this point does apply to both so stay with me) films tend not to make much of an impact on the western world unless they are one of the following two things:

  1. Incredibly fucked up.
  2. Animated

So when I heard the buzz this was getting I imagined it to have a really fucked up twist somewhere. I think that somewhat hindered my enjoyment of the film, I kept waiting for a twist that wasn’t going to happen, which was especially damaging because there were a few points where I sensed it approaching it and thought “okay now it’s happening”. Really that’s the main issue I had with this film. That’s quite telling that the main issue I had with this film was basically my own idiocy, if the Oscars gave a shit about horror films then the best actress nominations from the last few years would have been a lot more interesting.

The film itself is nothing like what I was expecting. Like I said, it’s a South Korean film called Parasite and it has a seemingly perfect rich family with something hidden in their basement, so you can see why it took me so long to get used to it not meeting my expectations. It’s actually kind of a nice film. It’s about a family. Yup, that’s all you’re getting. They con their way into all working for the same family. The scenes where we see them do that are pretty damn good; brilliantly edited and paced, very reminiscent of a heist movie. There are a few surprises later on, but really you’re not here for the shocks and twists, you’re here for the experience. On that note, I doubt you’ll see another film like it. On the downside, the satirical nature of it may be a bit too subtle. On the bright side this means more people will watch it, but (and I recognise this is personal opinion) I prefer my satire to bite a bit harder. That’s not a slight against the film, it’s just a personal preference. The final scenes do have to be seen though, incredibly heartbreaking and with just a slight touch of hopelessness that overwhelms you, I love it. So yeah go see it, it’s funny, warm, and features a dog eating sausages next to a corpse.

Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)

Film reviews can be many things: they can be an analysis of the techniques used, a discussion on the relevance of the film subject in a modern world, or even a way to showcase hidden depths within a media some might think of as shallow. Well, professional reviews are anyway, with me, they are basically a long pretentious way to answer one question: Should I see this movie?

With this, I’d say yes, with a but (lol, I said “butt”). I’d see the second one first, if you didn’t like that, you won’t like this (but also, what the hell is wrong with you?), if you like it, you’ll like this. It has the same flaws and brilliance. I found my mini-review of it (before I started doing a review of every cinema film) in which I said this:

“Holy hell this was a lot of fun. I think I actually might prefer it to the original. Got some of the loudest and most consistent laughs from other people in the audience out of any film I’ve seen.

+The performances. All the main characters are basically avatars of other characters. So they have to be played the same way the original characters are (think the scene in Harry Potter where Hermione pretends to be Bellatrix, like that, throughout the entire film). Not the easiest thing to do, but they all do it really well. Jack Black, in particular, makes a fantastic teenage girl, and Karen Gillans “no idea how to flirt” scene was hilarious.

-The entire film you can’t escape the feeling that you miss Robin Williams”

Okay I was kind of wrong with “the performances” part. Yes, Jack Black and Karen Gillan were great, but Kevin Hart was just playing himself, and The Rock didn’t throw himself into it as much as you felt he could have. They completely fix that with this, you occasionally have to remember that that actually is The Rock, and he hasn’t actually been possessed by Danny DeVito. Same with Kevin Hart and Danny Glover; Kevin Hart completely nails Danny Glover’s mannerisms and demeanour.

The addition of DeVito and Glover to the cast takes some getting used to (there are moments where it feels like they’re stretching certain jokes out until they become unbearable), but they do end up (about a third of the way in) meshing into the dynamics of the film and wondering how the previous one managed without them.

Other than that, this film is basically the last one, again, but bigger. It’s just as funny, just as great to look at, and the music is really good (something I hadn’t noticed before was how good the score is). So yeah, I would recommend seeing it, seeing it in 3D isn’t completely necessary, and didn’t seem to make much of a difference, so just see it in 2D if you want. You won’t regret it, it’s funny, heartwarming, and has a REALLY subtle link to the first one, with a returning character who you might not even remember. The story isn’t great, and anybody who has ever seen a film will guess one of the “so that’s her powers” moments before it happens, and is so obvious I thought there was no way they would actually do it. Some character motivations aren’t entirely consistent and there are moments which are just done to forward the story. But it doesn’t matter, the film is fun enough to make you forget that. Plus it sets up a sequel beautifully, and a sequel you actually want to happen.

The Day Shall Come (2019)

Anybody who has spoken to me for more than a few minutes knows I LOVE the work of Chris Morris and have been a fan of his since I first saw The Day Today being randomly repeated at some point in the late ’90s after Never Mind The Buzzcocks. I consider it the most important show to shape my comedic stylings and tastes, particularly in regards to British television. This is partly because he always works with such a great team of people;  Steve Coogan, Rebecca Front, Doon Mackichan, Mark Heap, Simon Pegg, Kevin Eldon, Riz Ahmed, Benedict Cumberbatch, Armando Iannucci, Charlie Brooker, Julian Barrett etc are all people I first became familiar with through their work on a Chris Morris show. This continues in this film, with a GREAT performance from Marchant Davis.

So yeah, it’s fair to say I hold the work of Chris Morris in very high regard. This can work against him as I have such high expectations means that anything less than great is regarded as a disappointment. As such this is a slight disappointment. It is funny but more “slight laugh to self”, not as many laugh out loud moments as their should be. The satire at times seems a little unfocused. Because it’s based on lots of different stories there are moments where the film is so concerned with telling those stories that it doesn’t tell a narrative as quickly as it should. It feels like a piece of work for people who already like Chris Morris, I can’t imagine someone hating Four Lions but then liking this. That being said, when it does hit, it hits fucking hard.

Often people say “it’s funny because it’s true”, that definitely applies to this film, but since it’s Chris Morris, it’s kind of depressing for the exact same reason. That’s why I do love this film, I found it very funny, but I do also find it hard to be incredibly excited about it. It’s the kind of film that makes you realise that the world is fucked and the current method of dealing with terrorists is not fit for purpose and is more pre-occupied with results than accuracy, it would rather jail 1000 innocent people than give them trials and find out they’re innocent. It’s the kind of film that should inspire you to fuck shit up and fight against unjust laws, yet also makes you realise that doing so would do nothing, it’s hopeless to fight against and try to change things, so you just have to curl up in a ball and weep at the current state of affairs.

Still funny though.

Horrible Histories: The Movie – Rotten Romans (2019)

I had weird expectations for this. I loved the original TV series and was thoroughly underwhelmed by the reboot. So whether I liked it or not, I wouldn’t have been surprised. Basically, I went in hoping for greatness, but willing to be let down. So how was it? Actually, it was really funny, it got some of the loudest laughs I’ve heard in a cinema in a long time. I think that might be because it was a kids film so people feel less guilty about openly laughing, some people don’t laugh loudly during adult comedies because laughter is for kids. I don’t agree with this, but it is something people do. Even at the funniest comedies, you’ll have people who react to jokes with inward laughing. There are no such qualms with this, it almost encourages you to audibly react. Not all the jokes land though, and the ones that don’t are generally the ones aimed towards a younger audience.

It’s this audience aiming which is the biggest failing of the movie. That, and doing what the TV series did. Anyone who watched the TV series loves the songs, they were often the highlight of the episode and some of them were genuinely great songs. Trouble is that doesn’t really transition well to a feature-length movie. In a sketch show-like format, you can take 3 minutes of music and just put it there, it doesn’t break up the flow or destroy the rhythm. But you can’t do that in a feature-length film with a narrative. It tends to be a signal to “stop the plot, we’re doing a song now”. There are 4 songs in this film, and at the very least one of them should have been cut. The Nero song goes on too long and completely disrupts the narrative. The one at the end is okay because it comes at the end, and kind of works but isn’t necessary. The first one you hear is the Boudicca song, I think this one is needed because it’s a great reference to the original series, also if you hire Kate Nash you probably should have her sing at some point. I’m not saying cut the songs completely, the reason for that comes in the song about The Battle Of Watling Street. You need other songs in the film otherwise that one stick out as an oddity too much. And this film NEEDS this song. It’s everything the songs in here should be; funny, catchy, and informative. Crucially, it advances the narrative. It doesn’t have a big enough budget to do a full-scale battle, so to showcase that through the medium of a rap battle is genius. If the rest of the songs were like it I wouldn’t have minded so much, but I’m willing to put up with Nero if I got this. Also, it has the line “I’ve got 99 problems but the Brits ain’t one”, which I can’t imagine many kids understood as a reference.

There are a few moments like that, things which kids won’t get, but crucially are subtle enough that kids won’t know they didn’t get them. The references aren’t staring you in the face and obvious. Two examples; the first one is where the Romans try to find out which Celt farted (sounds immature, but it works in the context of the film) and someone shouts out “I’m Fartacus”, this then catches on and everybody says it, until you get “I’m Fartacus, and so’s my wife”, in case there was any doubt this was a deliberate Monty Python reference, soon afterwards you have someone talk about the correct grammar of “Romans go home”. The second one is much more subtle, and BRILLIANT; casting Derek Jacobi as Claudius. Derek Jacobi’s most famous role; the title role in I, Claudius. That’s a fantastic piece of casting, yet one which the target audience won’t fully understand, yet also won’t be sitting there puzzled. They’ll just see a guy playing Claudius, whilst the parents will understand.

So should you see this? I’d kind of say yes but not full price, and don’t expect your life to be changed. Go in expecting fun, and you won’t be disappointed. An incredibly funny film with a great cast, also it’s definitely the only kids film to make a #metoo reference, I just wish it had the original cast in it somewhere.

Stuber (2019)

I’ll admit this film didn’t need a lot to win me over. I was won over by its mere existence from the first time I saw the trailer. Kumail Nanjiani is really funny, and even when he’s only in a film for one scene is usually the funniest part of the movie. As shown by The Big Sick he’s more than capable of leading a film too. His characters are usually kind of similar, so I was curious as to how that character would work out in what is essentially an action movie. Dave Bautista is a weird one, as he’s been in a lot of very good action films, and played major parts in very big films, yet he’s still not thought of as a big movie star. I think the issue is that the films he’s been in, are very good films, but they’ve never really felt like his. The movies have always felt bigger than he is, and it’s hard to imagine someone buying a ticket based solely on his presence. It’s weird as he is VERY good at what he does. Also, he’s a big guy, and one who’s not afraid to do comedy, so I don’t think any of it is down to him, I think he’s just missing THAT film to launch him to the next level.

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There is a chance this might be it though, this looks great.

Sadly, this isn’t that film. It is very good though. One of those films where you walk out of the cinema and feel good. You’re happy with what you just saw. You don’t need to see it again immediately, but if it’s on Netflix or Amazon prime you’ll definitely rewatch it. This is the kind of film that was made for 90’s video rental stores. It is very funny, to the point where the audience laughter was so loud at some points it felt like the film had a laugh track. The plotting, too, was REALLY well done in terms of setting things up, forget Chekov’s Gun, this is more like Chekov’s Slightly Disturbingly Sized Armoury (quite possibly the most “film-student” joke I’ll ever make. Although I feel “joke” should be in quotes too, and look, now it kind of is, the magic of writing).

So why is it not great? Well, the action scenes feel a little lacking at times, not much really stands out in that aspect. Also, despite being only 93 minutes, it still seems to take a while to get going. In fact, I’d argue it doesn’t really get going until they go the strip club and interact with the male dancers there. Yes, once again this is a film saved by the presence of naked men, just like The Emoji Movie (it’s possible I walked into the wrong cinema for that movie). It also doesn’t really have the heart it thinks it does. It nearly does, but for some reason, a lot of the emotional beats don’t hit home fully (with the exception of one near the end which the film REALLY earns). It also has issues with the side characters not really having much characterisation. But the most annoying moment for me was one of the fight scenes. There’s a moment where the two main characters come to blows in a sporting goods store, and it just seems like padding. It also breaks the realism as there are moments where you think “well that would kill them, or at the very least severely injure them” and it reminds you that you’re watching a movie (which explains all the people sitting near me eating popcorn). It brings the story to a complete halt for a few minutes and didn’t really do enough to justify its inclusion in the movie. So yeah, I would say you should watch this once, but you don’t need to see it more than that. It’s a film you’ll like and enjoy very much, but not one you’ll love.

Fisherman’s Friends (2019)

This is not the greatest film I’ve seen, but it’s enjoyable. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a piece of toast (I compare films to food way more than most people do, I should look into that). By that, I mean that no matter how perfectly it does what it needs to, it will never be your favourite. It sticks to a formula, and as such is kind of restrained by that. You can guess almost every single plot point in this film from the opening 10 minutes. It won’t surprise you at all. But it doesn’t really need to, this is not a film to analyse and pore over, it’s a film to sit and distract yourself, and it does that well. The dialogue is razor sharp, the characters are loveable (and fully fleshed out, even the background ones have minor details to them which help you know them), and it will make you smile. The whole thing is just massively endearing and charming and, I don’t know, warm I guess is the word I’m looking for. You know how certain films have colours attached to them? I’d say this one is a warm sea blue. It’s just comforting and lovely, the kind of film the whole family gathers and watches on Christmas Day, in that post-dinner haze where you’re all too exhausted to move, and someone inevitably falls asleep in the sofa with their Christmas hat still on. It’s incredibly BBC, and I mean that as positive and a negative.

So yeah don’t go out of your way to watch this, but if (actually, when) it comes on iPlayer, watch it immediately.

The above made complete sense in relation to this film. Which is weird, as with the exception of 3 words, it was lifted word for word from an earlier review. That’s both the best and worst thing about about this film. It’s nice to have something familiar, even if it is something new. It’s comforting to not have to sit there wondering exactly what’s going to happen and to just be able to lose yourself in the dialogue and the characters. It’s nice to have something you can have on in the background and talk to people during. It’s good to have something you expect, and have it meet every expectation. But yeah it can be a bit annoying to have that. It can be slightly frustrating to feel you’ve already seen everything in it. I think my feelings would be a lot less forgiving if I had paid for this, I feel that about quite a few films, but this one in particular was received more warmly because it was free. I mean, it is enjoyable, incredibly so, it just never feels like it does more than exist. It doesn’t grab you. It does have James Purefoy looking like a West Country Wolverine though, so it gets a few points for that.

Ideal Home (2018)

I knew nothing about this film. Never saw it marketed, which considering how marketable a name Paul Rudd is right now (Particularly because of Ant-Man) I found that puzzling. Almost like this film was one that was shuffled out embarrassingly by the studios. Add to the fact it’s a story about a gay couple, which is a story cinema still has issues with telling in some of the more oppressive and backward parts of the world (Iran, Saudi Arabia, America. Yeah I said it, come fight me bro), left me with a big cause for concern. I was particularly worried that this film would just be full of gay stereotypes, that the leads would be doing the kind of performance that is best left in the awful and horribly dark days of the 90’s. There are moments where Steve Coogan and Paul Rudd to go a bit too stereotypical, but those moments are fleeting, other than that the characters are pretty much just like every other character the two of them play. They actually have surprisingly good chemistry, to the point where I really want to see Steve Coogan in a Marvel film (him as a villain in the next Ant-Man movie would be incredible to see).

That’s not the only way this film subverts expectations. There’s not that much homophobia in it. It’s a film where a gay couple look after a troubled youth. It would be expected for there to be a moment where another character says “those guys are dirty fags” and the kid gets annoyed and punches them in defence of his new dads. The closest you get to that is another kid saying to him “you have two dads?” “I guess so”. There’s a moment where Steve Coogan visits his son in prison (the kid they’re looking after is his Grandson from his straight phase). It’s shown they have an incredibly strained relationship, and the son has a history of awful behaviour (drugs, stealing from prostitutes etc) and has a foul mouth. So when Coogan’s character says “Paul is my male companion, and has been for 10 years. Do you have a problem with that?”, you expect tension. But nope, the son just says “no” and that’s it. It’s beautiful how nothing that moment is.

This isn’t really a film about sexuality, it’s a film about parenting. And a pretty damn sweet one. I knew I was hooked when the kid was handed back to his dad, and the dad was drink driving and nearly falling asleep with the kid in the car. When that part happened I messaged someone “this film better not go where I think it’s going”. I was genuinely invested in these characters.

So I would recommend seeing this. Maybe don’t buy it on day of release, but if you get a chance to watch it, take it. You won’t regret it. I mean, it gave us this quote:

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BlacKkKlansman (2018)

This is a hard movie to review. It’s based on a true story, yet plays INCREDIBLY fast and loose with historical accuracy, not just slightly either, the year the film takes place is changed by almost a decade. Entire characters are invented for the purpose of the film, and some people have been made out to be a lot worse than they actually are (one of the fellow cops is portrayed as massively racist when in real life he was at worst incompetent) which is kind of bad when you realise a lot of people from this are still alive. That seems kind of mean, but it doesn’t affect how much I enjoyed this film. Well, I say “enjoy”, I didn’t really enjoy this, but I did like it a lot. I mean, yeah the pacing was a bit weird. It’s also very long, but it has a lot to say. This film gets you to ask a lot of very important questions about race, politics, and Steve Buscemi having a brother.

For those unaware: this is about a black police officer going undercover at the KKK. Seriously, that’s it, and it’s based on a true story, which is just as brilliant as it sounds. There’s a great moment in this which I KNOW really happened as I remember reading about it years ago: when the guy asked the Grand Wizard of the KKK (no, that’s actually what the leader is called, stop laughing) how he knew he wasn’t black, the Great Boy-Witch replied that black men pronounce letters and words a certain way.

I highly recommend seeing this film, the script is great, and the acting is just as good. I think it’s fair to say that it won’t be too long before John David Washington eclipses his father’s fame. Adam Driver continues to be incredibly good, and Topher Grace does his best to make David Duke somewhat likeable, in a role which definitely messed with his head. It seems like everybody in this film is at their best, Spike Lee really knows how to get great performances out of people. The writing is also really good, it would be so easy to make the KKK cartoonish pricks, but the script makes them seem like actual people. There’s a moment in the film where a member of the klan is lovingly embracing his wife as they discuss killing black people. In a way it’s kind of sweet, here’s a couple who clearly love each other, talking about what they love. It’s just a shame that what they love is being awful, awful people.

The main cause for my non-enjoyment was the ending. It had a great ending; an ending which is funny, completes the narrative and not the story (big fan of this as it means you feel the characters as existing outside of the film), and to the point. It then goes on, and on. It then starts to show modern klan rallies, the alt-right, and Hitler Simpson himself, culminating in people talking about the death of Heather Heyer, the young woman who was run over by a white supremacist/terrorist dickbag at a rally last year. It’s an incredibly poignant and sweet ending to the film, but it’s also really depressing as it makes you realise that whilst the klan itself are a relic of the 70’s, the attitudes and opinions they had are stronger today than I can ever remember (and they are, before you had Nazi’s as villains the reaction would be “bit cliche”, now it’s “typical leftie cuck SJW bitch. Making nazi’s look bad”).

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It shocks you. It cuts you to the bone. But more than anything; it inspires the hell out of you. This is not so much a film, this is a fucking rallying call, to all those who oppose the shit-heap that the world is in danger of becoming. This will light a fire underneath all decent people, and it’s REALLY fucking disappointing that it’s needed. But it’s the perfect way to end it, it makes you realise the real danger that people like that pose to civility.

The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018)

I realised when I posted my review for The Happytime Murders that there was one point I forgot to make; I no longer trust Melissa McCarthy in films anymore. I like her in some, but she has a tendency to ruin some films with dialogue seemingly improvised on the spot which serves no purpose and isn’t funny enough to justify its own existence, so just ends up being annoying (I call this the Kevin Hart effect). I was really annoyed about that, luckily this film makes the exact same mistake, so I can make here instead. I won’t, but I could. This film has too many moments where the scenes go on long past the natural stopping point, just to let the characters ramble on.

Tonally it’s kind of a mess too, it’s attempting to be about 5 different films, it would have been better if it picked a style and settled on it. It’s not quite clever enough to work as a spy film, there’s no amazing twists which catch you by surprise, or clever plotting which runs throughout the whole thing; it’s a comedy first, and a spy movie second, and there’s enough comedies already that this doesn’t seem to be adding anything new to that genre. There is room for a comedic spy movie, as you can see from Spy (both the film, and the television series). When this film has a choice between character-based logical decisions, and a throwaway joke, it always goes with the joke. This has the effect of making it look like the characters aren’t taking the situation entirely seriously, which means you don’t really buy into the central premise. I go on about this a lot but the reason Airplane worked (and it did), was because although it was a comedy, the characters in it took it seriously, so it had stakes, you were invested in the plot one hundred percent. This doesn’t do that, and it’s all the worse for it. I mean, it is very funny at times, but it’s incredibly disposable and wastes a promising premise. It mainly wastes it by having the main characters actually be effective spies, it would be funnier if it was all by luck, or if they were actually awful at it and made the situation a lot worse than it would be otherwise, and it escalated from something manageable into something catastrophic.

So in summary, it’s alright, but I’ll be very surprised if it gets a sequel. I feel I would like it more if it was a netflix film, or an extended skit on SNL, but as a full length feature? It manages to both not to do enough, whilst attempting way too much.