Confess, Fletch (2022)

Quick synopsis: While investigating a case of valuable stolen paintings, Fletch becomes the prime suspect in a murder.

I had no idea this was happening until I saw the poster at the cinema a few weeks ago. I saw no trailer, no press release, no hype, nothing. Plus, it’s a new entry in a franchise that has lain dormant since 1989. Apparently, the Fletch books are known in America among comedy circles, it’s why certain filmmakers always want to give it a go, and it’s why Kevin Smith tried so hard to make Fletch Won back in the day. So it’s a film the studio seems ashamed of, based on an IP that’s not that well-known in this country. All of this adds up to a feeling like looking at a particularly prophetic bowl of alphabet soup; it spells disaster.

So it comes as a bit of a surprise that this film is good. By some weird coincidence, I have watched the older Fletch films semi-recently, and I wasn’t too impressed by them. I think it’s because it’s hard to see the character as a lovable rogue when he’s played by renowned asshole Chevy Chase (Chevy Chase, of course, being the only c-words you will never find in a 2020’s comedy). Regardless of his dickishness, people liked Chase in the role, with some considering it among his best work, so Jon Hamm has a lot to live up to. He needs to be similar enough to Chase that people won’t bitch and complain “he’s ruining it”, but different enough that the general audience actually, you know, likes him. I think Jon Hamm’s work in Mad Men etc has made people forget how absolutely brilliant he is as a comedic actor. His timing and delivery is spot-on throughout, few people can go as comedically subtle as he can. He’s also a lot less broad in terms of comedic style than Chase was, he’s not the type of performer to make pratfalls or go overly cliche in terms of his ad-libbing. He’s helped by the other cast members though. Roy Wood Jr. could easily ride the momentum of his performance here into something bigger, and Ayden Mayeri’s performance has to be seen to be believed and makes me think that the fact she doesn’t have a Wikipedia page (or a recurring role in a well-reviewed but under-viewed sitcom) must be an error which I’m sure will be fixed soon. It does make their job easier that the characters are all so well-written though. The supporting cast of characters are so well-defined, even those who are only in there for a few scenes. Yes, it is mainly about the titular Fletch, but if some of the other characters returned in a sequel I wouldn’t be too opposed. They’re all given little unique quirks and characterisations that make them memorable (and also, importantly, funny).

The plot? It does what it needs to. It’s not as compelling a mystery as Knives Out, but it is filled with enough twists and turns to keep you surprised and entertained. It’s not the greatest, but it doesn’t make any mistakes. There’s not really a weak part to the writing, it’s not aiming to be the smartest film in the world, it’s aiming to entertain you, and it does that well. I wish there were more films like this, mid-budget comedies which are just designed to entertain.

As I mentioned earlier, the marketing campaign for this film is practically non-existent here, and even in the US, it was dumped on VOD services quickly after a very limited cinema release. It deserves better. It deserves to be seen by as wide an audience as possible. It won’t change your life, it won’t teach you anything, but it will entertain you and you will enjoy it. It’s the kind of film where you go in knowing what to expect, and it delivers exactly what you need. I will never not be in the mood to watch this.

Joyride (2022)

Quick synopsis: Joy is on a journey to abandon her baby when the taxi she’s in is stolen by a teen in this coming-of-age comedy-drama.

Does Olivia Colman know she’s a star? She’s probably one of the best performers in the world right now, yet she’s still in films that people at a similar level would see as beneath them. She is so without ego that it’s actually impressive, and it can only be a good thing for filmmakers. I’m not sure I would have watched this if she wasn’t attached. I’m sort of glad I did. I mean, it’s not the greatest film in the world, but it’s not the worst. It’s a film that shows great potential for everybody involved. Neither the director (Emer Reynolds), the writer (Ailbhe Keogan), nor the male lead (Charlie Reid, playing Andrew) even has a Wikipedia page at the moment, but on the evidence of this, that should change for all three of them.

It is a fun script, but it could do with being both more subtle, and more in-your-face. Andrew is too good, he’s introduced stealing money, but it’s from his dad who stole it from a hospice collection, so Andrew is planning to return it. It means there’s no ambivalence toward him, you know he’s always going to do the right thing. So when, later in the film, he comes to a moral crossroads; chosing the right thing to do, and going back to his nefarious dad, you already know what he’s going to do so the moment doesn’t seem as powerful as it would otherwise. It’s supposed to be an ethical dilemma, but it never feels like one because the film hasn’t shown the chance of him going the other way.

On the subject of his dad, he’s supposed to be feared and violent, but we’re not really shown that. I’m not saying we need a scene of him smacking a kid, but it would have helped build him up. Also, he shouldn’t have been in it so much. If you keep him as an unseen threat, then, ironically, it would make him seem a bigger threat.

Now onto the good, it has some very good moments. Olivia Colman’s flashback is incredibly powerful. I also respect how well it uses time. The entire plot is kicked off within 4 minutes (that’s including the opening logos and credits). It moves at such a pace that while watching it, you’re never going to feel bored or look at your watch. There’s also a scene on a plane near the end which is genuinely hilarious and has some great one-shot characters.

In summary, I feel this is destined to be included in a “oh, you liked this film the director made? Well one of their earliest ones was Joyride” conversation. An early oddity in a future career of greatness.

All My Friends Hate Me (2021)

Quick synopsis: Pete is cautiously excited about reuniting with his college crew for a birthday weekend. But, one by one, his friends slowly turn against him.

People decry trigger warnings, but sometimes they’re useful, you can argue “they ruin the surprise” or “if you’re that bad then just don’t go to the cinema” but both of those ignore one simple thing:

You’re actually supposed to enjoy things sometimes. Even things it seems like you’re not supposed to. Horror books are supposed to use a font that’s actually legible so it’s not a struggle to read it, roller coaster seats are not supposed to be painful to sit in. It’s the same with films, it’s supposed to be something you actively want to do, and if trigger warnings will let you know that this film is not for you then that can only be a good thing. I’ve avoided certain films purely because I knew I wouldn’t be able to objectively watch them. As much as I might have enjoyed, for example, Another Round, the subject matter meant that there was a large chance I wouldn’t, so I avoided it.

So what does all that have to do with this film? Well if I knew going into this film how I’d feel going out, I might have avoided it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very well made. It’s very funny at times, the performances are pretty much perfect, and it looks fine. It’s just…….it feels too real. It starts with the main character (who we’ve seen to be awkward) described as “funny” and how he now worries he has that to live up to. It’s so difficult to watch his anxiety beat the crap out of him, especially as you can kind of see why he’s so anxious. It feels sometimes like his friends are trying to gaslight him. They take him shooting and then berate him for not being able to shoot anything, saying it was disrespectful of him. They then hire an impressionist who just insults him the entire time.

And then to top it off, they say “it’s you. You’re why this weekend has gone wrong” is horrific. His anxiety drives all his friends away in a self-fulfilling prophecy. That’s not something you want to hear if you have anxiety, that you have to hide all your worries or everybody you love will leave you. It’s a lot to take in, maybe it would have been better if it was a short series so you had a break every half hour as opposed to taking it all in in one sitting.

So in summary, maybe you should see this. But there is a chance this film will lead you into a deep depression and do for friendship what Psycho did for showers, makes you wary and slightly frightened of them. If you have any insecurities, this film will play upon them, it will gnaw into your brain and reside there, making you think over your friendships and wonder if they are actually your friends or whether they hate you too. It’s a psychological horror for your mental health. Utterly fascinating, and you probably should watch it, but…..prepare something nice for after. I may have said that before in reviews, but I have never meant it as much as I do for this. No film has damaged my brain as much as this did, and that’s a huge compliment to just how spot-on they got everything.

On The Count Of Three (2021)

Quick Synopsis: Val (Jerrod Carmichael) and Kevin (Christopher Abbot) are two friends on a mission: have one last good day before killing themselves.

This is a unique film. I sent a few people the trailer for this and the responses varied from “are you sure you didn’t write it?” and “that’s very concerning. are you okay?”. It’s something which is going to be off-putting for a lot of people. It’s an acquired taste, and one that a lot of people won’t like. Personally, I loved it, and a large part of that was the dialogue. That’s what I’m going to base this review around, the dialogue. Here goes:

“I didn’t know I had to set a Save The Date for a double suicide”/“I’m not listening to Papa fucking Roach on the day I commit suicide”

Kicking off with a big one. Yup, this is about two people planning a double suicide (which is a good number of people to have if you are planning it: one is not enough, three is too many, and fifty-six is just silly). None of this would work if the relationship between the main two wasn’t believable. I’m not that familiar with the work of either of the two performers, but they make a natural double act. They bounce off each other so well that it feels like they’ve been performing together for years, but (judging by the IMDB credits anyway) this is the first thing they’ve starred in together. They will also be in Yorgos Lanthimos’s (best known for The Favourite, The Lobster, and The Killing Of A Sacred Deer) Poor Things; alongside Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe, and Mark Ruffalo. If a studio had any brains they’d sign those two guys up and get them to lead an action franchise together.

“if the guests can’t follow the rules then visitation rights will be revoked”

That’s a much more important line than you’ll think. It’s delivered by someone in the facility Kevin is in after he attempts suicide. It demonstrates that it’s not really about caring for the people in the facility. If you have a heavily suicidal person, you don’t threaten to cut off their connection to the outside world. You don’t threaten to isolate them from their friends just because their friends decided to smoke. That’s shitty behaviour and is the kind of “rules are more important than results” bullshit that leads to increased suicides and ineffectual “well we did what we could” platitudes from people who in reality did nothing. That’s very early on in the film, so it sets up how seriously this film takes the subject. It doesn’t hide away from the dark reality of not just having it, but how other people deal with you when you have it.

“not waking up tomorrow is the most beautiful thought I’ve had in a long time”

On the subject of beauty, there are some beautiful shots here. Jerrod Carmicheal does a fantastic job of making ordinary shots look good. It’s not quite at “oh my god these are the most beautiful visuals I’ve seen” levels, but there is a dark elegance to the normality he portrays. He’s mainly known for acting, playing a semi-fictionalised version of himself in The Carmichael Show, which I’ve yet to see but I’ve heard is absolutely astounding in how it tackles some of the issues, especially the Bill Cosby controversy. His directing has mainly been documentaries and stand up specials. Those have been enough that even without this film you’d know to keep an eye on his future. For example, Drew Michael was an incredibly unique way of shooting a stand up special, so made clear to everyone how creative Carmichael can be. While he is a great performer, I’m much more interested in what he brings to the table as a director in the future.

“You just tried to kill yourself three days ago don’t tell me suicide is not the answer”

That made me laugh, so much. As did a lot of lines in this. While it is about depression, it does still make you laugh, but never about the situation, you laugh at the characters. It’s really difficult to a film about a subject like this, and not have it offend people. It’s a really tricky line to walk, to make a comedy like this, and not have it feel like it’s exploiting the situation. This walks that line brilliantly and is a testament to the very clever script.

“good times, nice to see you”

Said by a former bully of the main characters. The “good times” he’s referring to by the way, are when he ran Kevin over in his truck, causing him to undergo physical therapy for a year. It’s brutal, but is also kind of honest in how people like that never see themselves accurately. They see what they did at school to people as funny and just something that happened, they don’t see the horrific impact it has on peoples lives. Just shows that the script knows what it’s like to live that life.

“that unhappiness, it’s a good thing, it will push you”

Usually, this is portrayed genuinely, the myth that depression is good because it can be used as a motivating tool for artists. You don’t need happiness, you don’t need enough money to pay your bills, just stay miserable and poor. It’s good that this film has that line be said by a character who is an abusive prick, but who is also rich. The character who says it? Henry Winkler, a.k.a The Fonz. He’s in it, as are other big names like JB Smooth and Tiffany Haddish, but not much. This is mainly about the two leads, somewhat to their detriment. It would have been nice to pull away from them once just to see how people are reacting to them. Because the focus is so small that it feels like a small-time story, and to go from that to the ending is a huge shift.

“guns are crazy, how are these legal?”

This is such an American film. From the way that it treats mental illness, to how easily they can get guns. This wouldn’t work as well in another country. Especially at the end when Val is in prison. That’s my negative for this film, the closing third feels a bit too much like a story someone has written in class. All feels a bit too fake compared to the grounded nature of the rest of the film. Him being in jail at the end also doesn’t answer some questions, did he actually get jailed for the murders? Or was he just charged as an accessory? That changes everything. Yes, it does seem like he’s happier now than he was. But him being locked for a few years while his child grows up is a very different ending than him being away for decades. I get why it ended like that, to show the irony that he was free and miserable, but now he’s locked up but happy.

“When a customer is talking, you listen bro, it hurts to be ignored”

And there it is. What this film is. Frustration. Frustration with yourself, frustration with your past, frustration with your lack of future. So while it is funny, and it is sad at times, really the emotion I’m most left with from this story is pain. It’s incredibly real, and if you have ever been in a place to recognise that reality, this film will speak to you like few others will.

So in summary I’d say you should watch this. It’s not among the best films I’ve seen, but it is definitely the most “me”.

The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent (2022)

Quick synopsis: Unfulfilled and facing financial ruin, actor Nick Cage accepts a $1 million offer to attend a wealthy fan’s birthday party. Sadly this fan turns out to possibly be a drug lord, so the CIA get Cage to spy on the person for them.

Let’s face it, someone like Cage is perfect for this film. He’s not so much as an actor, as he is a living meme at this point. Capable of greatness, or being terrible. You never see a Cage performance and think “he was alright, nothing special”. He’s one of those people who you could hear any story about and believe. “hey, I heard Nicholas Cage slapped a Rhino with a sea bass” “yeah, that seems like something he’d do”.

So a film in which he plays himself, who gets roped into doing an investigation into a suspected drug lord? Perfect. The result? Well it’s not perfect, it is very, very good. It has a lot of laugh-out-loud moments, but just not consistently enough to consider it great. Also, there are too many issues which stop it from reaching the next level. What issues? Well I’m glad you asked, and your hair looks great by the way.

Well firstly, a big issue is that this has been done before. An action star who is having family trouble, being caught up in a crime? If you want to see how that’s done, watch JCVD, that’s a superb movie featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme giving (genuinely) one of the best performances you’ll ever see. The other issue is that ONLY Cage is playing himself. I’m okay with Sharon Horgan playing his wife, and there are other similar performances. Put Neil Patrick Harris is too big a name to just play Cage’s agent. When I first saw the trailer I assumed he was playing himself too, and he knew about the wealthy person who liked Cage because he’s been invited to his parties too. But nope, he’s just his agent. I feel it would have made more sense to have it as himself though, would have set Pedro Pascal’s character up as the kind of eccentric rich guy who pays celebrities to hang out with him. I kind of have a similar issue with Pascal, who is definitely too big a name to not known. But overall I’m more okay with that, because he is so much fun in this. He doesn’t normally do comedy, but he should, he has a talent for it, and him and Cage bounce off each other wonderfully.

The other downside? This could go further, it features moments where Cage is interacting with a younger version of himself. It’s a bit weird, happens enough that it is notable, but doesn’t happen enough to make you comfortable. I mean, it’s Cage, this has room to go a lot weirder, and it’s weird how refrained it is. I also have an issue with the fact that the guy we thought was good, turns out to have been good all along, and the actual villain is a guy we’ve seen only once or twice in the film, and then very fleeting.

I know this sounds negative, but I have had to be very nit-picky to make those points. Overall it’s a very fun watch. I’m glad I saw it, and probably will see it again if it’s on streaming services, or I find it cheap at a boot fair or charity shop. As I said before, it is very funny, even if some of those laughs have been ruined in the trailer. The plot makes sense, even when people make stupid decisions, you can understand the logic. It also has actual characters with their own personalities and motivations. This means that when the film aims to be emotional, it actually works.

So yeah, if you get a chance, go see it. But don’t rush out RIGHT NOW. Treat it like a deer, approach slowly and realise you may not see it.

The Lost City (2022)

Quick Synopsis: While on tour promoting her new book, reclusive author Loretta (Sandra Bullock) gets kidnapped by an eccentric billionaire who hopes she can lead him to an ancient city’s lost treasure from her latest story. Alan, her cover model (Channing Tatum), wants to prove his worth to her so tries to rescue her.

This will not be the best film you see all year, but it is not bad. The plot is very predictable, you can guess pretty much everything that will happen from the trailer, you can probably even guess specific lines. But it’s also a lot of fun. It’s incredibly funny, with some amazing dialogue. Heard some of the biggest laughter of the year in this. It’s not aiming to be deep or make you sad, there’s nothing here that’s even approaching the island of tears. It’s not going to make you re-evaluate life or think differently. It’s not going to affect you emotionally. But it’s not supposed to. It’s supposed to be popcorn entertainment, and it does that very well. There are no moments where it feels too stupid (unlike Moonfall) in a way that takes you out of the film. There are a few moments where the backgrounds don’t quite mesh well enough in a way that seems believable. Side note: is it just me or is that happening more and more lately? Big budget films seem to have lost the ability to green screen in a way that seems real.

Other than that, visually it works too. There are no spectacular visuals or shots which will blow you away. The action scenes look good though, the directors are talented enough that even when there is a lot of stuff going on, you know exactly what is happening, who it is happening to, and where everybody is. There are no “wait, I didn’t see what happened there, the camera was moving too much” moments that plague films like Ambulance.

The performances are all fine too. Bullock is an acquired taste, she’s not someone who I’d see a movie because of, but she’s not someone I’d avoid. That opinion is probably because she primarily does really broad romantic comedies, and they can be very bland. But when she’s given a good script and character, her comedic chops really shine.

Tatum also does great. It’s strange to see him play someone so uncoordinated and unsure, but he pulls it off. When he does comedy, he does it very well (as has been shown in 21 and 22 Jump Street). He’d have made a great Drax in Guardians Of The Galaxy if they couldn’t get Batista. Daniel Radcliffe seems to be having a lot of fun, I think he’s at the stage in his career now where he’s just doing films for shits and giggles. His introductory scene contains a LARGE selection of cheeses, yet the only thing Radcliffe chews is the scenery, delightfully.

So in summary, you don’t need to rush out to see it, but it is worth a watch if you can. It’s just under 2 hours long, but I’ve yet to see a film fly by as quick as this one did. In summary, it’s not the greatest thing ever, but it’s a lot better than you expect it to be.

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.

Here Today (2021)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

People Just Do Nothing: Big In Japan (2021)

Quick Synopsis: Years after they split, Kurupt FM find out one of their songs is being used on a game show in Japan, so head out to sign a record deal.

I watched the series last year, which was almost the perfect time in preparation for this film as it meant I still had to wait for it, so I still got the anticipation, but I didn’t have to wait very long for it so a lot of it was still in my mind. The show occupies a certain section in my mind reserved for sitcoms where I enjoy watching it, I recommend it to people, but I couldn’t pick an episode to watch to suggest to people. I was quite excited about this, but also slightly worried it wasn’t happening. All I knew about it was the basic plot, and it was due out in August of this year. As the year went on I was slightly concerned that I hadn’t heard anything, and then the trailer came out and I was relieved, it was happening, and I knew I was going to see it.

I was still slightly concerned about the quality though, film adaptations have a somewhat mixed history. They’re tricky to pull off as if you make them the same as the show then it can seem pointless, but if you make them too big in comparison, then you risk losing the essence of what the show real. The standard fix for this is just “send them on holiday”. I feel the measurement for success or failure for this depends on one aspect: the side characters. If you have too many background characters “just happen” to join them then it seems unrealistic, one or two is okay though.

The way they’ve done it in here makes sense, other than the main group only two other cast members go with them. One is their manager who pays for it himself so he doesn’t feel left out, the other is the wife of one of the group members, who invites herself. Both of those make a lot of sense for those characters to do so it doesn’t seem out of place.

This film is bigger than the show, it feels slightly more professional and slick, but only slightly. It’s not suddenly turned into a 3 camera sitcom with incredible lighting and sound. It still has the feeling of a guy following them with a camera. The characters haven’t changed too much either, they’re still the lovably unlovable slightly pathetic people we know and don’t love but enjoy watching. The new characters slide perfectly into the ensemble cast too. Although for one of them you are left wondering whether he is actually trying to make them fail, and if so, why because he’s spending all that money? It would have made more sense if the group was pushed upon them by a manager who he is trying to get fired, so he’s pretending to be doing all he can whilst doing things he know will cause the group harm.

I’m not sure how this will hit for people who didn’t like the show. I think they’ll still enjoy it. The film does enough to signpost who the characters are that you won’t feel lost. Actually now thinking about it I think there are times where they actually repeat jokes from the series. But that makes sense in context as not every conversation you have with someone is brand new, you do say the same things to multiple people at times, so it’s okay if that happens in the series, it’s not like they’re having the exact same “wacky coincidences” happen. They still make you laugh a lot.

Now onto the downsides: it does still feel “funny” but nothing else. As much as I did enjoy it, I’m in no rush to go out and watch it again. It’s standard popcorn/time filler, that’s all you get from it. Sometimes that’s what you need though. It would be a shame if this was how the series ended because there is still a lot of potential left in these characters. But I also wouldn’t complain if this was the end. It’s pretty much a “the end…..or is it?” to the series, leaving it open for more, but providing closure if that’s what’s needed.

How To Deter A Robber (2021)

Quick Synopsis: A young couple (played by Vanessa Marano and Benjamin Papac) face off against a pair of burglars in Wisconsin.

I was interested by this. The concept seemed fun and the trailer? Well my reaction to the trailer was to send someone a link to it and say “this looks like it will be made or ruined by the pacing and directing”. The concept seemed wacky and fun, but the way the trailer was edited made it look weirdly slow-paced. The concept was crime-comedy, but the directing seemed Napoleon Dynamite. It’s a weird mix that doesn’t really seem suited. That was just the trailer though, there was always a chance the actual film would be the opposite.

It’s not. This film is dreadfully slow. It seems like a short film unnaturally stretched out. There are moments here which add nothing and a lot of this film is kind of tedious. You have a lot of the film just setting the plot up, and it doesn’t really do a good job of that. Part of that is that it’s not needed, there are quicker and better ways of setting up what it sets up. It doesn’t help that the situation doesn’t develop naturally. The plot drives the characters actions, their motivations solely being “we need this to happen so the plot can develop”. Chief among this is the “inciting incident” where they think their neighbours house is being robbed, so they break in, and then…….do a séance? Okay then. That’s something believable. They fall asleep and wake up to the house having been robbed. It doesn’t make character sense, and it wasn’t really needed. They could have had the same end result if they just went to the house and found it robbed. The only way this would have changed the plot is would have had to think of another reason for them to move to their uncles house (at the moment they do so because they’re under suspicion of being the robbers because they’re the ones who phoned the police, which is obviously what robbers do after they burgle a house). It’s unnatural and overly written, and there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason for them staying that nearby if they think they’re in danger. Considering it’s a snowy area they could have just gone with “snow is too heavy” and would have saved time. Plus it would have made the most of the gorgeous setting, something it only really does in the closing stretch. Maybe it’s because Bissell is used to those visuals that she doesn’t realise just how beautiful it has the potential to be. She sees those kind of things all the time so they’re standard to her, but to the rest of the world it’s something new and exciting, and I wish it used it more.

The set-up to the robbery itself is also pretty funny too, when they duct-tape a knife to a roomba, when they get nervous about handling guns etc. It all feels incredibly real. It does still have a few moments where the film is sitting around waiting for the plot to start, but it’s mostly good.

And then the robbery itself starts. And it’s here where the quality of the writing and directing really shines and we get a better idea of what Maria Bissell is really capable of when she’s at her best. It’s slick, smart, and funny as hell. It’s just a shame that doesn’t start to happen until halfway through the runtime. It’s a shame as when the film is good, it’s incredible. Like I said, the robbery itself is a delight to watch (that sounds wrong). If the film was just that, it would have been one of the best things I’ve seen all year. The characters are at their best, and we’re introduced to the robbers themselves, one of whom is played by Abbie Cobb. I’m not too familiar with her work but she is incredible. There’s something of the Anna Kendrick in the way she plays her and I would love to see her do more stuff. The writing is at it’s best here too, the dialogue has a natural flow to it which really makes the situation seem real.

So in summary, see this film, but you don’t need to pay too much attention for the first half of it. As a directorial feature debut, this is incredible and shows a lot of promise. It’s just when it’s compared to other films that it seems to lack, maybe that’s unfair but it’s really the only way you can do it. It has made me want to see what Bissell does next as she’s obviously incredibly talented and has the potential to one day do my favourite film, it’s just she hasn’t quite managed that yet.