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.

Hotel Artemis (2018)

I really dug this. I mean, I won’t buy it on DVD or anything but it was a great watch. It’s better than the adverts make it seem. I thought it would be kind of a dumb action film but it’s SO much more. The satire in it is spot-on, and won’t date. That’s the trouble with satire sometimes, it can become irrelevant really quickly. This won’t. This will only become irrelevant when one of two things happen: when we reach the time the film is set in (2028), or when poor people start getting treated with respect and dignity. So really this film has ten years of relevance, being set in a society where there are riots because access to water is being denied to people without money (something which a lot of people predict will happen in the future), so the film hits home in terms of satire. The rest of it? The plot is actually really well paced, it builds and progresses at a steady pace, not showing too much too soon, but also not spending so long building up that you end up bored. It looks stunning, the future-dystopian aesthetic showing a great mix of slick and dreary (like a Nick Cave album). The performances? Dave Bautista continues doing what he does, being terrifyingly intimidating with conflicting thoughts in his head. Sterling K Brown somehow manages to feel underused despite being a main character, and Jodie Foster is still a fucking treasure. I was reminded how truly great she is during this film, she wasn’t just acting vocally, or with her face, her entire body was consumed by her character, the way she stood, the way she walked, everything about her was character driven, and shows the difference between a great performer, and one of the greatest performers.

Despite that; Jodie Foster wasn’t my favourite part of the film. My favourite part of the film was the sense that there were other stories in this world. The spin-off potential is huge, everything about the world and the characters seems developed, to the point where if somebody told me it was a comic book adaptation I’d believe them. Even the way characters interact suggest a huge backstory behind their relationship (Batista and Foster in particular.

Now for the negatives; it’s really hard to find negative things about this. Not in a “it’s so brilliant it’s almost perfect” way, but in a “not a lot of it stood out” way. What it does, it does well, but it very does better than that. The plot is simply an excuse for the action scenes at times. I mean, that’s fine, but it would be nice if it tried harder. Also the satire doesn’t go quite as hard as you feel it should, it very quickly becomes just the backdrop, it would be like if Robocop had the exact same setting and atmosphere, but was a movie about golf.

So in summary; very good, but continued the modern trend of “Jeff Goldblum turns up for only 5 minutes”, and makes me disappointed that Sofia Boutella still hasn’t had a film franchise built around her.