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.

End Of 2017 Film Awards

Our final look back at 2017, after this it’s onwards and upwards as we look forward to the wonders of 2018 (by which I mean, Coco, Ghost Stories, and Three Billboards, two of which I’ve already seen, so really the year is all downhill from here)

Best Actor

Winner

Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out

The entire film sinks or swims on his performance. If he doesn’t give a good performance then this entire film sinks. The writing, the directing, it’s all for nothing if you don’t buy the central performance. Fortunately, he’s superb. Not just vocally, visually he just owns this performance. Starting off seeming really cocky and arrogant, then ending up terrified. If this doesn’t lead to him leading more films then I officially give up on Hollywood.

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I know, the film that had this in the trailer ended up being creepy, who’d have guessed?

Other Nominees

Jason Sudeikis. – Colossal

Genuinely creepy and unsettling. Brilliant. I expected his performance to be comedic and one-note but he managed to turn in a magnificent performance that made him seem like the creepiest person on the planet, but believable. You could see his thought processes in play and knew why he was thinking like that. The revelation about his creepy persona makes sense because of how well it’s been set up. A sign of not only a great performance, but also great writing.

Hugh Jackman – Logan

This is a personal choice, because I didn’t think he could do as much as he did in this. The way he carries the character contains a lot of backstory. He’s no longer the invincible hero, he’s playing him as someone who knows his time is up. Someone who knows he’s not long for this world and is struggling to face his own mortality. It’s a depressing performance for a comic book film, but works wonderfully.

Best Actress

Winner

McKenna Grace – Gifted

Want to know how good this performance was? It was a performance by a child actor that I didn’t hate. The character is a know-it-all smartass. So it would be incredibly easy for her character to come off as annoying and pretentious. The way McKenna plays her, however, is great. She’s played as someone who knows the downside of her intelligence, someone who knows that whilst she is much smarter than her uncle/caregiver, that doesn’t necessarily mean she knows more than him. It’s played with a slight vulnerability to her which renders her incredibly easy to root for and support. No idea where she, as an actress goes from here but I’m intrigued.

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And she had great chemistry with Chris Evans

Other Nominees

Anne Hathaway – Colossal

I do love Anne Hathaway. She’s most known for romantic comedies sadly but has a phenomenal range. For proof of this watch Rachel Getting Married, she gives an amazing performance as a recovering addict haunted by her past choices. She’s just as good in this. Some of that is obviously down to the script, but a lot of it is down to the performance. She plays someone who is broken incredibly well, I’d like to see her as a psychopathic killer in a film.

Mandy Moore – 47 Meters Down

Yes, THAT Mandy Moore. What do you mean, who’s that and what’s that song? Do you people have no respect for late 90’s pop? Damn kids, get off my lawn! Anyway, in this, she was very, very, good. So good that I forgot I was watching a former pop star and just got heavily invested in the story. I kind of forgot I was an actress and felt I was watching actual people. That’s not the easiest thing to do.

Worst Film

Winner

Wish Upon

Very bad, but all the worst because it had a good concept. If a film is just bad, that’s okay, if a film is bad but has the potential to be good, I find that a lot harder to forgive. Even the good parts of the film seem to have come from other, better films.

Other Nominees

Sleepless

Dull, dull, dull. So boring. I’ve suffered from insomnia for years and this film almost put me to sleep. It almost feels like it would take effort to make an action film this dull, so in some ways, it’s actually quite impressive.

The Belko experiment

It runs out of ideas before the trailer has even finished. Would be a great short, but as a feature-length film, it’s an abomination.

The Dark Tower

“surely this isn’t as bad as everybody says?” It is. It really is. And serves as more proof that Idris Elba really needs to fire his agent.

Best Film Moment

Winner

Atomic Blonde: The Stairwell Fight

I am a sucker for a good really long shot. Especially in action sequences. I love nothing better than a fight scene where you can almost feel the impact of every hit, where’s there no cutaway before every impact. If one of those goes on for a minute I’m in heaven. I know that doesn’t seem long, but sit back and time that out, and picture a fight scene with no cuts lasting that long. Bit difficult isn’t it? This was NEARLY 10 MINUTES! Now this isn’t actually, one shot, it’s just edited like that, but it’s still a really impressive feat and is visually magnificent. The seemingly unedited nature of it means when the character hits someone, you really feel it. It feels like a fight, rather than a fight scene. It’s actually really great character work too. It means you don’t view Charlize Theron’s character as some kind of invincible hero, you view her as a human who is potentially one mistake away from being severely injured.

Other Nominees

Wonder Woman: No Mans Land

No Mans Land. If you want to explain Wonder Woman as a character, and as a feminist icon, show this scene. Without a doubt the best moment in the DC cinematic universe, by a long shot. This film may have been underappreciated when it comes to the oscars (which is something I don’t agree with, but I get why), but this scene is something that I feel deserves to be seen by everybody.

Spiderman Homecoming: The Car Scene

You know the one, where Michael Keaton’s character is taking Peter Parker to the school dance and slowly comes to the realisation of who he is. Marvel films have had great action set pieces in films lately, but this is a great character piece. It’s a testament to both the script and the performances that what could have been dull turned into one of the tensest scenes of the year.

A Monster Calls: The Stories

This was a great film, super depressing and wonderful. But there were moments throughout the film where it became magnificent. Whilst the Liam Neeson tree was telling stories (it’s an odd film) the art style switches from a normal live-action film to something which can be best described as a living water-colour painting. The images flow through each other like they’re made of water showing off a multitude of colours leaving the viewer gobsmacked at the pure unrelenting beauty of the whole thing. This is the one out of the three that you might not have seen, so here’s the scene in question:

Best Film

Winner

Get Out

Not just a good film, a very very important one too. This is like the fourth time I’ve had to talk about how much I love this film in these end of year blogs. It’s had almost everything you need. Great story, great actors, great script, great directing, not too many cliches. This film will be spoken about for years to come, and hopefully, lead to a resurgence in socio-political horror.

Other nominees

Logan

More than just a superhero film, a great western tale about morality and mortality, with a great performance by Dafne Keen too.

IT

Yes, Get Out is a better horror film. But this was more than that. This was a great coming of age film. Genuinely heartwarming with characters it’s impossible to not to love.

The Big Sick

I’m a sucker for romcoms, and I’m a sucker for depressing bleak films. Who’d have thought they’d be a film that can combine both? Made all the better for the fact it’s based on a true story. Also the winner of the “Most surprising cameo by a cast member of Crazy Ex Girlfriend” award, which doesn’t exist as an award, but if it did, this would win it, and Downsizing would win the award for 2018, and nothing else because it was dull.

The “Well I Liked It” Award

Winner

Murder On The Orient Express (Rotten Tomato Score: 57%)

The visuals alone should have merited a higher score for this. I think part of the dislike for this is just because it’s a remake. Every single remake has had people bitch that it’s different from the original (I bet back in the day people were complaining that DeNiro in Cape Fear wasn’t as good as Robert Mitchum in the original). Yes, the glut of remakes is a problem. Actually, no, strike that, the glut of lazy remakes is a problem. You can remake anything you want as long as you put the effort in. I would much rather watch a remake made with love than an original idea made “just because”.

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Nominees

Table 19 (Rotten Tomato Score: 26%)

I’d accept a low 50 score for this, but 26 is far far too low. Incredibly funny, great performances and a magnificent script. I’m a sucker for great dialogue, which this had in spades.

The Last Word (Rotten Tomato Score: 37%)

Do people just not appreciate dialogue any more? Yes, the story was cliche at times, but the way it told it was magnificent. Also it should be commended for promising something dark, and then delivering on it rather than just going for the happily ever after ending.

Best Film To Look At

Winner

Blade Runner 2049

Because LOOK AT IT!

https-blueprint-api-production.s3.amazonaws.comuploadscardimage544323446eb31c-fe20-47df-8552-01dd10cd480dDo I actually need to say anything else? It looks so gorgeous I almost made an audible response so many times. Almost every shot could be used as a poster.

Also nominated. 

Kong

Mainly because it proved that spectacle cinema can still work in this day and age. I’m a cynical person so assumed it would have no impression on me. Yet I was amazed when I watched it. Was sucked into the universe completely.

Get Out

There’s a French film from 2002 called Irréversible, it’s a weird art-house psychological horror that’s apparently disturbing in many ways. During a large section of the film there’s a noise played throughout that’s played at such a frequency that it’s almost inaudible; this was done as a sound played at that level causes nausea and sickness. I should note there’s a chance that this is just an urban legend, but truth be told I don’t want to research it in case it’s not true, it’s too magical for me to find out it’s false. But what does that have to do with this film? Well that feeling, that sense of unease, is what this entire film is about. There’s not many scares in the traditional sense, it’s just almost two hours of something being slightly “off”.

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I know, the film that had this in the trailer ended up being creepy, who’d have guessed?

Nowhere is that more apparent than in some of the performances. I’ve seen films with better individual performances, but I can’t remember the last time I saw a film where every performance across the entire film was perfect. There’s not a single weak link in terms of performances, even characters who are only seen for a few minutes knock it out the park. The lowest mark you can give a performance in this is 8/10, but there’s definitely a few perfect 10’s throughout. She’s not in it for long but Betty Gabriel in particular was absolutely superb and if there’s any justice in the world she’ll use this to springboard herself into bigger roles, I’m sure studios will be falling over themselves to cast the woman who’s in one of the most popular GIF’s of the year, being seen by people who haven’t even seen the film.

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There’s a lot of VERY good eye acting in this film. I know this sounds stupid but there’s a lot of moments in this film which are enhanced by the way the actors utilise their eyes. Some of this has been seen in images of Daniel Kaluuya used in promotional material, which, whilst we’re on the subject; the promotional material for this was all delightfully understated, keeping the films cards very close to its chest. It showed a lot, but nothing that will spoil the plot. I’ve spoken a lot in the past about invasive marketing for films, and how that can help create interest for a film, and about how much I love stuff like that and I wish it happened more. Not for this though, it wouldn’t have suited it. This didn’t need marketing to create its universe, as it’s a world in which we can imagine we already live in, this really helps you lose yourself in the film. It’s also a film that sadly I can imagine being relevant for a very long time as a lot of the cultural issues it touch upon are ones which have been relevant for a long time, and will sadly continue to be part of society. Yes, this film does touch on a lot of racial issues, but not the usual “we’re from Alabama, and we don’t like those coloured folk”. The racism in here is very different, it comes not from anger or hate, but from a fetishisation of black people, a condescending view of them as being “genetically superior” but intellectually lacking. As such the film has a weird dynamic where the villains kind of worship the heroes. Very weird, very unique, and VERY well written.

GetOut

It’s kind of odd how well written and made this film is. It’s written and directed by Jordan Peele, who I’ve only seen in Key & Peele (a sketch show on Comedy Central that I really need to get around to watching one day), one of the voices in Storks (animated children’s comedy that’s actually better than you think it would be), and Keanu (an action comedy film about someone getting a cat from a Mexican drug lord). As such I always thought of  him as a comedic person, I never thought he’d be able to transfer his skills to horror so effectively, in fact I’ll go as far as to say it’s one of the best directorial debuts I’ve seen in a long time, which considering he’s basically committing genre adultery is impressive. That being said, it is still very very funny. The mood whiplash between horror and comedy is very well balanced, usually in films like this you have the comedy make the horror seem less scary, it doesn’t enhance the film, it undercuts it and stops you taking it seriously, usually because the comedy comes from a character not taking the situation seriously, they’re being chased by a monster/demon/dishwasher and they stop to make jokes. The way they do the comedy in here is believable, you can tell the jokes are being made by the characters to help them deal with the situations, and most of them are made by a character who isn’t directly involved in it, so is literally distanced from the situation already. This isn’t comedy-horror done like a mid-90’s slasher film, this is comedy-horror done like An American Werewolf In London. 

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Not to be confused with its extremely sub-par sequel.

One final note about this, I have to say my favourite thing about this film; that it’s doing well. Last I saw it had made $136million against a budget of $4.5million and had received universal acclaim from both critics and audiences. I like that, it would be a real shame if this film didn’t do well as it’s superbly well made, as it is this film has broken records and is certain to go down as a modern classic. Seriously, go see this film. In fact, you could say “Get Out, to go see this film”. You could say that, but you’d be making a really obvious comment and would just come off looking like an idiot.