2019 In Film Day 4: The Good

Okay, stay with me here because this is where it gets complicated. In this one I’ll be talking about films, that (get this), I think, are good. I tried to subtly imply that with the title but I wasn’t sure whether I was too subtle or not. So, here goes.

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

This film is so good it almost makes up for [insert terrible Melissa McCarthy film, and let’s face it, there’s a fucking lot of them). This is a good one to start this blog off with actually, and not just because it’s alphabetically the first in the list. This one has a definitive thing which stops it being anything better than “good” in my eyes. It has almost zero narrative suspense. You better get used to that concept because it’s going to come back in a big f*cking way later on in this blog. The trailer showed her being put on trial for her crimes, but the entire film is seeing the scheme unfold, the trial isn’t until near the very end. So what we’re doing is watching people hatch a plan that we as an audience know doesn’t work. It’s not just that for me. The music and visual style were weird. They were good but they make it hard to place it in the time frame. They make it seem as though it happened a lot earlier than it did. The film is set in 1991 but the colour scheme used in the film, and the soundtrack, make it seem like it’s set from the 1960’s or earlier. So when you do get something 90’s happening, it can be somewhat jarring. I recognise that’s just a personal opinion, but this entire blog is a personal opinion, so meh.

Original review here

+Richard E Grant, he’s just great.

-Won’t stick with you.

Greta

I think I may need to watch this film again to fully come to terms with it. It’s a deeply flawed film, but it is incredibly fascinating to watch. Part of that is the performances, but also the pacing is pretty damn good too. It’s slow, but it is constantly moving forward. So the story is constantly going, albeit much slower than you may be used to. It also doesn’t treat the audience like they’re stupid, it’s a much more fulfilling film if you notice little details and remember certain situations repeating themselves. It just doesn’t, for some particular reason, stand out as a film that I have a great personal love for. I appreciate it more than I liked it, but I did appreciate it a lot.

Original review here

+The cookie-cutter scene. A great moment to hear the entire audience wince at once.

-Occasionally struggles to hold the attention of the audience.

Horrible Histories: The Movie – Rotten Romans

I thought I loved this film, but it’s been out on DVD for a few weeks now and I have no desire to go out and buy it immediately, so I guess I didn’t. It was funny enough, but I guess it was just a little bit too childish for my tastes. I know, a children’s film was childish, how dare it? If I was younger I’d probably have liked it enough to annoy my parents by constantly watching it. This is never more evident than during one of the songs which completely brings the film to a halt and goes on too long. It’s weird as there are other moments where it seems like the filmmakers have a firm eye on the adults in the audience, references to Monty Python, Jay-Z etc you can argue the kids might understand. But does anybody really think that there are any kids who would understand a reference to the 1970’s television show I, Claudius?

Original review here

+Battle Of Watling Street song. It advances the narrative, is funny, and incredibly catchy.

-The Nero song is kind of cringy

IT: Chapter Two

The further I distance myself from this film, the less I enjoy it as the faults become obvious. The flashbacks contain zero dramatic tension in them as you know the characters are not going to die. It’s also extremely unsatisfying in terms of expanding the lore. It feels like there’s a lot of stuff left to say, but not in an exciting way, but in a way that the whole thing feels unfinished. The way the film is structured and the lore is revealed makes it seem like there’s a third one, but there’s not, so it’s just a bit strange. It’s also way too fucking long. If you include trailers and traffic time you were looking at almost a 4-hour commitment, and that’s just too much.

Original review here

+Bill Hader is amazeballs

-It drags like a 1-legged drunk hyena

Pokemon: Detective Pikachu

This film is weird, in a good way, mostly. The tonal shifts are a bit jarring though. It goes from incredibly serious to Ryan Reynolds in a fucking instant. The humour too is slightly inconsistent, ranging from simple slapstick and dick jokes, then suddenly you get a joke about torturing someone for information by pouring petrol on them and setting them ablaze. So strange, yet kind of wonderful.

Original review here

+The visual world-building is incredible. It all feels real.

-Some of the human characters are so flat they’re almost 2-dimensional

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark

I expected this to be a bit lighter than it was. I basically expected something similar to Goosebumps. This feels more like the next natural progression from those films. So a kid would watch goosebumps, then this, then start killing everybody as that’s what horror films cause people to do, obviously. After watching the Nightmare On Elm Street series I went through a phase of haunting people’s dreams and killing them in increasingly outlandish ways. That stopped when I watched the Saw movies and just became awful. So, this film. It’s not original, but it is a very good watch. It has some great body horror moments in. Actually, that’s a point I haven’t mentioned, the variety of scares in this. It has a somewhat scattergun approach to them so if there’s not one fear that works there’s another which will. It’s a risky approach but it’s really effective in this.

Original review here

+The sense of dread never leaves the screen.

-A bit too restrained at times, plus I found one of the characters really annoying.

Stan And Ollie

This was the first film I saw in 2019. So the film got off on a pretty good year. Very heartwarming and emotional. Maybe my opinion of it was somewhat muted by not knowing much about the pair. As such I couldn’t really catch any references, also the film didn’t give much background about the pair, assuming we were familiar with them. Because of this I always felt slightly like I was watching two strangers, as opposed to two characters.

Original review here

+It seems very honest. Fully aware that they have flaws and made mistakes.

-Too slow at times

Stuber

This is very funny, but that’s all it is. It never goes beyond that. If I caught this on netflix I’d love it. But paying full price at the cinema sours it somewhat. This would have been the perfect film for video rental stores. It’s not quite good enough to push either of the leads into superstardom (they are huge, but not like “build a multi-million dollar franchise around them” huge yet), but it is a worthwhile addition to both of their filmographies. I really wish this was better, but it just doesn’t do enough to take it to the next level. Plus there’s one scene which just feels like padding and takes you out completely.

Original review here

+Great chemistry between the leads.

-A few moments take you out of the film and remind you that what you are watching is not real.

The Day Shall Come

It’s funny because it’s true, but it’s also super depressing for the exact same reason. I don’t mind downer endings sometimes, but in this case it just seemed odd. The film had spent 90 minutes punching you in the face and it never gave you that catharsis of a happy ending. I don’t think it was helped by the high standards I have of the creator. His stuff is some of my favourite stuff of all time, so when something is only very good, it seems worse by comparison.

Original review here

+It could inspire people to go fuck shit up.

-The satire is a little unfocused at times.

So that’s it for this one. Don’t worry, I’m finishing with 2019 soon, I realise now I’m stuck more in the past than an Empire fanatic (both British and Imperial/Galactic), and so far from 2020 the films have been good. So you’ve got that to look forward to.

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.

Comedy; It’s No Laughing Matter

I was having a conversation with someone yesterday about script ideas when I mentioned I was working on a romantic comedy. The response I got was pretty much “why don’t you aim higher?”. I find that a little bit insulting, not to me, (I’m rather glad they think I’m worth something), but to comedy. People dismiss comedy far too easily; it’s rarely nominated for any major film awards (for example; the last comedy to win Best Picture Oscar was Annie Hall in 1977, unless you count The Artist, which I don’t, because the first thing you think of when you think of that film isn’t laughter). When people ask for the best films they’ve seen they tend to go with the serious artsy ones, maybe because they actually like them, maybe because they feel that’s what they should be saying. 

Donald Trump
“Ass-ablanca is the best movie ever made” “don’t you mean-” “I know what I said”

I don’t know why people are so dismissive of comedy. I suspect it has something to do with people assuming it’s too lowbrow. That “comedy” is just made up of swear words and slapstick; which is ridiculous (for one thing; they’re completely missing “puns” and “racial stereotypes that white people find funny”). I will freely admit that most of my favourite tv shows and films are comedies. And it’s not just because I haven’t seen the “classics”. I’ve watched Citizen Kane, I’ve watched 2001: A Space Odyssey, and I’ve watched Full Metal Jacket, and I did really appreciate them and loved them, but I didn’t ENJOY any of them half as much as I enjoyed films like Airplane, Lego Batman Movie or In The Loop. 

In_the_Loop_poster

Comedy can do (and does) a lot more than people think. It can change the way people think about the world, it can inspire ideas, it can affect you in ways that leave you emotionally devastated (I’m looking at you 50/50)

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I’m then looking away, because if I look too long I’ll cry

It’s not just comedy that gets a bad rap; anybody involved in comedy does too. If an actor known for comedy makes a comment about something he is instantly dismissed. We need to start taking things like that more seriously; let’s not dismiss Jim Carrey’s thoughts about vaccines causing autism just because he’s a comedian, let’s dismiss his thoughts because they’re wrong and he’s a fucking idiot about it.

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And for being a prick

Personally, I love it when comedy and comedians effect me in an emotional way. If something includes a little bit of light it makes the darkness seem more extreme (and therefore effective). On the flipside; laughter can also make something easier to take in. It’s why people will watch and read Horrible Histories and learn more from that than from A Complete History Of British Rulers.  One of the best examples of a comedian embracing the darkness a few years ago came from American tv personality Stephen Colbert. He took a week off from The Colbert Report to deal with his mum and her death. When he came back he opened the show, not with a roundup of the show ahead, not of a bunch of silly jokes, but with a heartfelt tribute. Here’s a condensed version:

She was born just a little ways from here in Larchmont, NY on Chatsworth Ave. in 1920, the same week women first got the right to vote. She spent her summers in the Adirondacks with her older sister Colleen and her younger brother Ed, who called her Snodgrass. She met my father James at age 12 at cotillion and she liked him, but she didn’t want him to know how much, so she would make her friends ride their bikes all the way across town to pass by his house, but then she’d never look to see if he was in the front yard, which of course drove her friends crazy. And evidently, she also drove my father crazy because they were married and promptly had 11 children. She made a very loving home for us. No fight between siblings could end without hugs and kisses, although hugs never needed a reason in her house. Singing and dancing were encouraged, except at the dinner table. She knew more than her share of tragedy, losing her brother and her husband and three of her sons. But her love for her family and her faith in God somehow gave her the strength not only to go on but to love life without bitterness and instil in all of us a gratitude for every day we have together. And I know it may sound greedy to want more days with a person who lived so long, but the fact that my mother was 92 does not diminish, it only magnifies, the enormity of the room whose door has now quietly shut. In her last days, my mother occasionally became confused, and to try to ground her we asked simple questions, like what’s your favourite colour, what’s your favourite song. She couldn’t answer these. But when asked what her favourite prayer was, she immediately recited A Child’s Prayer, in German, that she used to say to my eldest brothers and sisters at bedtime when they were living in Munich in the late 1940s. Her favourite memory of prayer was a young mother tucking in her children. We were the light of her life, and she let us know it ‘til the end. 

The fact that he went from this straight back to his usual jokey self made it mean more; the sudden mood whiplash caught you by surprise, and I only hope I could write anything half as beautiful. Until then, I’ll just have to settle for watching it here.

Why We Love…Fahrenheit 451

I picked this book up from a shop in Portsmouth a few years ago and it was on my christmas reading list; then I changed my mind and decided to read Garfield and Horrible Histories instead (don’t judge me) and finally got round to reading it about a year later. I remember I started it at 9pm Thursday night and finished it 7am Friday morning. Now it’s not unusual for me to stay up through the night; but it’s never to finish a book (it’s usually for noodles or to try and figure out what went wrong at various stages of my life).

journal
“May 15th, 2005, turned down a free burger”

For those unfamiliar with this book the plot is this: in the not-to-distant future books have been made illegal and fireman go around burning them and arresting anybody who possesses them. No matter how bleak this book got though it couldn’t make me feel worse than it did in the first few chapters. You’re introduced to this character called Clarise who is just simply awesome. She reminded me so much of this girl I used to go to college with. So I was sitting there getting used to this simply adorable character, then she dies. Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury? No, Fuck you!

But maybe the fact I thought that was a good thing. It showed the emotional depth the book had; it stopped you thinking of these people as characters and it seemed more like a journal; the events were actually happening and everything had consequences (as opposed to poorly written books where you’re constantly aware that they are books, so the characters don’t effect you that much as you don’t see them as people; more cliche’s of people).

This book also is related to some brilliant mistakes. First off; the title. It’s called Fahrenheit 451 as that’s the temperature which books burn at. Well it’s supposed to be; but it’s not. The temperature at which paper combusts is actually 450 Celsius. The other mistake was not one made by the author but by the audience. For years people said it was about censorship, but it’s actually about interest in books dwindling because of television. It’s got to the point now where people go up to the author and tell him he’s wrong about his own book and it really is about censorship. Proving that just because you can read a book doesn’t make you intelligent; in fact it can make you think you’re smarter which actually makes you dumber as you can’t be taught.

trump
On the subject of dumb people thinking they’re smart….

Anyway I’m rambling; so yeah in summary a rather awesome book which contained one of my favourite lines in a book:

“why waste your final hours running around your cage denying you’re a squirrel?”

Seems so boosh-like. Oh, and I also LOVE this paragraph;

“Go home and think of your first husband divorced and your second husband blowing his brains out, go home and think of the dozen abortions you’re had, go home and think of that and your damn Caesarian sections, too, and your children who hate your guts! Go home and think how it all happened and what did you ever do to stop it?”

One of the harshest sentences I’ve ever read; yet also one of the most beautiful