A good reviewer stays unbiased throughout, I am not a good reviewer so I’m going to say from the outset that this film earned a place in the “good films of 2019” end of year blog based solely on how great the first two films were, the fact that the trailer for this featured John Wick riding a horse, and for having Anjelica Huston in it. This film would have had to fuck up badly for me to dislike it. I’m so glad it didn’t. This carries on the tradition of John Wick films being the new standard-bearer for action films. No longer are they just “dumb fun”, and really, anybody who calls the John Wick franchise dumb really has no idea what they’re talking about. This is a great story about redemption and consequences, a story which runs through at least 4 films. Actually now I’ll mention one of my 3 issues with this film: it doesn’t work as a standalone film I don’t think. It sets up the next one too much so when it’s over you don’t really feel narratively satisfied. It’s the cinematic equivalent of really good tomato soup, yes it’s good as a starter, but it’s just not enough. Second problem: the action scenes. Now don’t get me wrong, they are FANTASTIC in terms of the scenes themselves, the choreography and lighting lead to them being some the best fight scenes you’ll ever see, it’s just…..well I don’t think all of them are necessary. There’s some which go on a bit too long and just seem to be an excuse to HAVE a fight scene, the fight scenes lead the movie rather than the other way around. The third issue: the main villain isn’t that interesting, kind of. The main physical threat anyway, doesn’t really have enough to do. Asia Kate Dillons character is kind of the big bad villain, orchestrating everything, and they’re fantastic, I just feel it’s a bit too late in the franchise to introduce a character like that. Side note: the John Wick franchise has now featured one non-binary actor, and a genderfluid one, and done so without even mentioning it or making it the character-defining trait, they’ve just put them in there and let them be amazing (Ruby Rose is still one of the highlights of John Wick 2, and Dillon is a definite performance highlight of this one).
This film also continues the BRILLIANT world building of the first two. It’s part of why I love these films, there’s so much that goes unsaid about the universe but is just implied and shown, it really sets it up as a universe which actually exists, and also means you have to be paying attention to everything. You actively engage with the films because you have to, you can’t just sit back and dip and out.
So in summary, yeah this film is great. But it could also be the film in the series where the cracks start showing, it all depends on where they go next, I can’t wait.
Superbly done. Also had one of my favourite endings ever. It made it look like it had a “slightly unhappy but full of hope” ending, then it went the other way and made it super depressing. Most of the film takes place underwater, and it looks gorgeous. There’s one scene where a flare is going through the ocean water and you it’s almost complete darkness apart from the small flare making its way up, beautifully done. Since most of the film is underwater it relies heavily on performance. Luckily Mandy Moore completely knocks it out the arena with her performance in this
-Getting a sequel. Because sequels to shark films always go well. Advice; don’t go 3D and hire Michael Caine.
A Monster Calls
This is not an easy film to watch on an emotional level, almost seems like it’s attempting to emotionally blackmail the audience. It’s kind of a mix between Pan’s Labyrinth and a Neil Gaiman book, sort of a modern-day fairy tale. There are moments whilst the tree is telling stories (it’s an odd film) where the film switches visual styles so it almost becomes a living watercolour painting, it’s awe-inspiring and genuinely new, never seen anything that was done like this (the closest is when Hermione was telling the stories of the Three Brothers in Harry Potter and the style switched to a weird animated one). The only previous film I’ve seen of the director was The Impossible, and that was in 2012 so can’t remember too much about it, but I can remember being really impressed with the way he directed certain moments in it and was really good at creating visual tension, which is a good sign for his next film; the Jurassic World sequel
+The art styles when the monster is telling the story
-Longer than it needs to be. Sigourney Weaver’s accent wavers.
Like a companion piece to John Wick, looks superb and the music is brilliant. Had one of my favourite soundtracks of the year. And there’s one scene which everyone has to see; a single shot fight scene that lasts about 15 minutes, one of (in fact probably the) best fight scene I’ve seen all year. It doesn’t cut away before impact like most do, it’s mostly silent, no music so you hear every hit, and the fight has an effect on people, you can see them get gradually more exhausted as the fight goes on. Highly recommend seeing this.
+THAT scene. Also the soundtrack.
-Comparisons to John Wick are inevitable.
The opening scene alone ranks it among one of the best films of the year. Very well done. Great films usually inspire you into film-making. I think this has the opposite, this is like “yeah we can’t match that”. Bound to inspire a lot of poorly-done imitators. Yes, the plot is wafer thin, but it’s so fun you don’t notice. You don’t sit there thinking “well I know how this story is going to end”, you think “oh my God! Did you see that?”. It’s a non-blockbuster version of spectacle cinema. Everything about the way it’s made just works, the way the music complements the action and vice versa, the way the car chases are impressive without being unrealistic, the fact that Jon Hamm continues to exist.
The love and dedication that goes into this is obvious. This was not “film by committee”, this was a true passion project, and it shows through every inch of the screen. It’s also surprisingly American. The open road, the American dream, diners with endless coffee are all essential to the story, so it’s weird that such an American film was made by a Brit, this feels like the film where Edgar Wright has finally stepped away from under the shadow of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.
+A technical masterpiece.
-The plot is wafer thin. And the female characters are woefully underwritten. Oh, and it’s got Kevin Spacey in it which makes it an uncomfortable watch.
Blade Runner 2049
I have not seen the original film, don’t get me wrong, I am aware of the film, and it’s importance, and I understand a few references to it. This, combined with lots of people saying they didn’t understand this film and that it was too complex, made me think that I would hate this film. Not because of what the film is, but because I just wouldn’t get it. My response was going to be “it’s good, it’s just not for me, and I was really confused”. Well, I was confused, I was confused by the confusion. People are talking about it as if it’s a really complex plot where you have to pay close attention to everything in every scene and do a lot of research beforehand to understand, I knew nothing and still knew what was going on, it’s not that complex if you’re paying even the smallest amount of attention. I mean, I understood it and I’m basically a moron.
Was surprised that Harrison Ford didn’t appear until MUCH later than I thought he would. I expected him to make an appearance at about the 1/3 mark. Nope, it was more like the 2/3 mark. Which was a bit strange as he was all over the marketing campaign and was the lead in the original, so a lot of people would have been waiting around him to appear. Although I suppose this did mean that by the time he did appear, everybody was already invested into the story, so he didn’t really take away from Gosling. Make no mistake, this is Gosling’s film, and he nails it. Although the supporting cast does a great job too, So many of your new favourite actress’s will be in this film. A lot of unknowns were cast, yet gave amazing performances. Ana De Armas and Carla Juri deserve special mentions. They both portray their characters with enough vulnerability to make them believable, yet enough determination that they fit this universe. Their characters were great too, you imagined they all had lives outside of this film, they exist on their own terms, not just related to the story. It felt like you could write entire novels based around them.
The world itself was beautifully created as well, not just visually (although it was visually stunning), but also in terms of believability. Those of you who read the review of Valerian will know how important I consider world building to be, particularly in this genre, for films like this the universe it’s set in is almost a character in itself, so if you don’t do that well it really effects it. Done really well in this though, everything looks just dirty enough to be real, yet clean enough to be futuristic. On that note; this film looks SUPERB. You could pause this at almost any point in the film and use that as a poster. This, combined with Arrival last year must surely make Denis Villeneuve one of the best-regarded directors around.
I also liked how the story threw a genuine curveball in the closing stretch. I do like a good twist if it’s well done. That’s the trouble with a lot of plot swerves, they come out of nowhere and make no sense. A good one makes sense, a GREAT one will be so logical you’ll feel stupid for not realising it sooner. So in summary, this is going to be one of those films that pretentious film buffs constantly try to show you, let them.
+LOOK AT IT! Seriously, just look at it.
-Not a “popcorn film”, in the slightest, so won’t appeal to everyone.
Oh, it’s flawed as hell (particularly in terms of time and establishing exactly “when” certain scenes take place in relation to each other) but all those flaws do is take it from a 10/10 to a solid 8. Anne Hathaway gives a performance which equals Rachel Getting Married (which if you haven’t seen, you really should, it’s superb), and Jason Sudeikis is creepier than I ever thought he could be, the kind of performance which makes you think he could easily move into more dramatic roles, or play a serial killer. So well written too, so much so that I immediately looked into the writer and made a note to watch everything he’s done. It’s also extremely unique, I can’t think of a film to compare it too, stands alone in a genre of one, and I can’t see anybody doing it better.
+Unique story wonderfully told
-As creepy as the guy is, his motivations never really ring true.
“You know how films have gunfights between people? Imagine if that was an entire film” “you’re fired”. That’s what should have happened. Instead, we got this, and it is glorious. Definitely worth a watch as a curiosity. It is essentially a gunfight in a warehouse, for an entire film. But it’s done so well that you’re never bored, you never sit there waiting for it to end. It helps that the gunfights are really well choreographed, not every bullet hits, people conserve ammo when they need to, and bullets to the arms actually do damage as opposed to just “ouch, that arm is slightly weaker now”.
+It works. As a concept it really shouldn’t work, but it does, and it’s superb.
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”.
There’s a lot of VERY good eye-acting in this film. I know that sounds stupid but there’s a lot of moments in this film which are enhanced by the way the actors utilise their eyes. A lot of times things that ordinarily would take a lot of dialogue to say is done just via an eye movement. Tremendous showcase of acting skills, and luckily it’s in a very important film. 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. One which is like “think what they could do if they had the mind of a white person”. As such the film has a weird dynamic where the villains kind of worship the heroes. Very weird, very unique, and VERY well done.
This film was 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. I was wrong, he did brilliantly, 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. Don’t get me wrong, it is still very very funny and the mood whiplash between horror and comedy is very well balanced. Usually in films like this you run the risk of having 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. 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.
+The sense of unease that’s present throughout. Its greatness increases on second watch.
-There are not more films like it.
Guardians Of The Galaxy Volume 2
Did you enjoy the first one? Then you’ll enjoy this. Just as impressive, funny, and brilliant as the first one.
+Has the emotion that the first one was lacking.
-Apart from that, it’s not that different. Also, the pacing is all over the place.
Happy Death Day
This was just a lot of fun. Very, very, funny, and really well written. Some films you watch and you think “”this is so meh, I can’t imagine a writer thinking “I have to write this film”. You do with this, you can just imagine someone toiling over this night and day, a true passion project. One of the funniest films I’ve seen all year with a genuinely great story.
+Incredibly funny, and with a compelling central mystery.
-Not scary enough.
Oh this was good. This was very good. Get Out was more of a social drama, and Happy Death Day was more comedy, but in terms of pure visceral horror, this one wins hands down. Eye openingly scary. So scary that clowns complained, yet manufacturers of red balloons didn’t, probably because it’s led to an increase of people buying them. Horror remakes are always hard, because they will be compared to the original, and people hate change so usually will detest anything different, but if you don’t do it differently then you end up with Gus Van Sant’s Psycho. So essentially you need to keep same tone, but add a new take on it. This does it, and does it well. Oddly enough it’s kind of sweet as well, but it does have to be because it’s SUCH a character driven film so you need to care for these characters.
John Wick Chapter 2
If you enjoyed the first one, you’ll enjoy this. It’s basically the first film, but more so and in a way that never feels like it’s walking in the same footsteps. One of the first times in a while I remember leaving the cinema and being incredibly excited for the sequel.
+Masterfully well made.
-Does occasionally seem like it was just done to set up a sequel.
This film was what I expected to be, and to be honest it’s what it needed to be; which is the first truly mature comic book film in a long time. Some people would say that Deadpool deserves that accolade, but I wouldn’t count that as mature. It had lots of blood and adult content, but it was very silly and lowest common denominator, don’t get me wrong, I do love that film (it was one of my favourites from last year), but it’s not mature at all. One of the best compliments you can give this film is that it is a fantastic film, not “fantastic for a comic book movie”, on its own terms it’s a fantastic film. There’s going to be a lot of people who find this film dull, it takes quite some time for certain things to happen but it’s brilliant. Not every film has to be fast food, designed to be satisfactory but finished quickly, this film is more like a three course meal at a restaurant, you savour every moment and really take your time with it, so that when it’s over you feel completely satisfied and all you can do is sit there and recover from the brilliance you just consumed. The ending of this film will be talked about, not here as you can’t without spoiling it. It is brilliantly done though, it’s an ending which this series has truly deserved, and it ends with a Johnny Cash song, which most comic book films wouldn’t be able to do but for here it fits. It is pretty much a modern western, a tale of a retired gunslinger coming back for one more gunfight, the last outlaw, in a time and place without purpose and that has moved on without him, causing him to need to go out in a blaze of glory.
+The first comic book movie I’d describe as a true cinematic masterpiece.
-Very underwhelming villains.
The plot was simplistic but it was still better than at least 50% of MCU films purely because it had a compelling villain. Michael Keaton’s character (he plays some sort of Birdman) makes sense. You’re not watching it thinking “what a terrible person, glad he’s not real”, you’re thinking “he’s actually making a lot of sense. I see where he’s coming from, and in a way, I agree with him”. He’s the most compelling villain in the MCU so far, and the performance matches the writing. A lot of comic book fans were disappointed that they changed his appearance for the films, I don’t particularly care about it to be honest, mainly because it would be really hard to take THIS seriously.
I know that this talk about “taking it seriously” makes this sound like it’s attempting to be super serious and gritty, thank God they didn’t do that, this film is fun as hell. Even the colours are better than lots of superhero films. A lot of films have orange and blue as the main colours, but use them against dark backdrops, this uses those colours but uses them against light. It’s very summer-ey in appearance. It’s also really funny. The characters are well written and have great lines, Zendeya’s character, in particular, is a great collection of sarcasm and apathy which I really identify with for some reason. She has the best lines throughout and is one of the films many comedic highlights. In terms of comedy though, most of the best moments from the non-main characters belong to Jacob Batalon’s Ned, who absolutely owns his role as “guy in a chair”. He also helps provide an audience surrogate, since the film starts with Parker already as hero, many people expected the origin to either be ignored, or told in flashbacks. It did neither, it had Ned ask questions and we found out small details from that, not so much that we were re-covering old ground, and not so little that people new to the franchise were confused. So in summary; very good, very fun, and I think it’s safe to say that Tom Holland is the best Spider-Man, although part of that is due to the way he’s written, he’s actually written as an adolescent, the villains he faces aren’t ones who are going to destroy the world, the main villain is basically an unfriendly neighbourhood villain.
+Tom Holland is perfect.
-Not entirely sure it works as a standalone film. Bit too heavily indebted to other MCU films.
I enjoyed it, a lot. It’s what I deem “social mystery” film. Where the audience has to work out why certain characters are who they are, what caused them to be like that. It’s like an Agatha Christie murder mystery if the victim was good manners. It’s a hard film to describe the plot about without it sounding really bad, it’s mostly just people talking. But the characters are so well created and acted that it works. A lot of people dislike this film, and I kind of see why, nothing really happens. But to me, it was wonderful, one of the most emotionally honest films I’ve seen in a while.
+Really, really funny.
-Attempt at emotional heartpull seems a bit obvious.
The Big Sick
Incredibly funny, and with the right amount of heart. You’d need to be made of stone not to feel touched by this film. The characters are so well-written as well, every character seems fully fleshed out. They seem like they exist outside of the film.
They’re basically my kryptonite, especially dialogue. I’m a sucker for great dialogue. It’s also a genre that doesn’t really get affected too badly by the quality of the way you’re viewing it. Some genres are really badly affected by what you watch them on. Horror, for example, is not exactly something you can appreciate watching on a small television screen on an airplane. With advances in technology happening at an astronomical rate, visual spectacle fades, good writing doesn’t. The best rom-com’s; When Harry Met Sally, Annie Hall etc, all have one thing in common; fantastic writing. You can watch them again and again and still love them. They also have a wide audience. As much as I do love odd films like Buried (Ryan Reynolds in a box), Bogowie (a Polish film about heart transplant) and Four Lions (a comedy about suicide bombers), I’m not stupid enough to think they have mass appeal. They’re too weird. Rom-coms are for everyone though. They have universal themes that almost everybody can identify with. So where does this film stand compared to the greats of the genre? It’s a little difficult to tell at the moment, but I have a feeling that if I was to sit down in six years time and watch this, I’ll still love it. It also has the best 9/11 joke you’ll likely to hear all year.
+Will make you laugh cry.
– As much as he nails the performance 95% of the time, there are a few heavily emotional moments where Kumail Nanjiani looks like he’s desperately hiding a smirk, robbing the scene of some of the emotion
The Death Of Stalin
Incredibly funny and biting satire, which seems mostly historically accurate too. And it almost got banned in Russia, which is a bonus. Caused a Russian politician to describe it as a plot aimed at discrediting the figure of Stalin. Yeah, damn those films and their “anti-genocide” blinkered viewpoints.
+Satire that bites so hard it leaves teeth marks.
-Historically innacurate at times. Also, Jeffrey Tambor in it can make it difficult to watch in light of recent allegations.
The Last Word
Holy crap where did this come from? It’s like High Fidelity mixed with Christmas Carol. Really good. I really wish this film had a better marketing campaign so that more people would have seen it. Genuinely one of my cinematic highlights of the year. Seemingly just with me though, a lot of reviewers really hate. I loved it though, very dialogue and character-heavy. Genuinely sweet and heartwarming, there’s a scene near the end which is a bit “meh”, but other than that I loved it. A story about an elderly woman who hires someone to write her obituary before she dies, only a lot better than I made it sound.
+The dialogue. Specifically, as it relates to the lead. So fantastic.
-Not promoted by the studio, like, at all.
The Lego Batman Movie
Usuall, it’s taken me about ten minutes into a film to think “okay I’m into this”, this film sold me in the first sentence. From the opening narration:
“Black. All important movies start with a black screen. And music. Edgy, scary music that would make a parent or studio executive nervous. And logos. Really long and dramatic logos. DC. The house that Batman built. Yeah, what Superman? Come at me bro. I’m your kryptonite”
That sets up exactly what type of film you’re about to watch; a film that’s very silly, and gloriously so. It then gets sillier, there’s an odd faux-mance between Batman and the Joker which culminates in Joker teaming up with Voldemort, Sauron, Godzilla and King Kong. Yes, this film is silly, but you can tell that whilst the film-makers are making jokes about Batman and the mythos, they do have a genuine love for the character and his world, they’ve clearly done their research. References to not only previous films, but also very very obscure villains (who’d have thought that Condiment Man would finally make an appearance?). The story is really good too. There’s a tendency in comedy films to think the story isn’t important, this is very very wrong. Perfect example of this is Airplane, that film only works because of the story, yes the jokes are funny, but they’re funny within the context of a serious situation, the story itself isn’t comedic, but it has comedic situations in it. My rule of thumb for determining whether a comedy films story is good is this: would the plot also as a serious film? I think this one would work, it’s a story about a lonesome superhero dealing with his isolation whilst also maintaining a mutually destructive rivalry with the Joker (which is also one of the themes from the seminal piece The Killing Joke). Since I saw it I’ve been trying to think how to sum it up in one sentence, and I think I’ve finally found it. The sentence which best describes everything about this film, so here it is: this film is basically Deadpool for children. And we all know how great Deadpool was.
Plus, there’s a Christian group in America protesting it and calling it “gay propaganda”, so you have to see it, even if only to annoy them.
+Trying to list all the references this film makes will make your head explode in nerdgastic joy.
-Not much of a sense of tension at any point.
War For The Planet Of The Apes
A stunning end to one of the best trilogies of the last few years. Some people considered the franchise dead in the water after the Tim Burton version, the knives really were out for Rise, but it managed to become highly regarded not just by fans of the franchise, but by the general public. It made weirdly concept sci-fi cool again.
+The ending that this trilogy deserves.
-The realisation that the trilogy has missed out on a lot of opportunities it will now never take.
I explained my thoughts on this here. Spoilers; LOVED IT! Even the closing credits were amazing. They were like a watercolour painting. I like when films take the time to attempt to do something with the credits, it shows a real dedication to what they’re doing, like they want to take every possible moment to leave a good impression on the audience. This film is every bit as fantastic as BvS was critically reviled.
+Gal Gadot. This is her film and she owns it.
-Pretty bad villain. Which I’ve just realised is consistent for a lot of superhero films lately. That’s odd as normally villains are the most interesting part, yet for last few years a lot of them have been really bland.
So, that’s 2017 in review. Next week will be the 2017 film awards, then it’s back to usual with random reviews and opinion pieces every monday. And to answer the question; I never got to see Disaster Artist.