2019 In Film Day 6: The Amazeballs

Avengers: Endgame

I wasn’t going to put this in this one originally. It’s so deeply flawed, not within the film itself, but in terms of what it closes off. It basically means so many things I was excited for will now never happen; Civil War meaning anything, a villain taking advantage of the chaos of half the universe disappearing to motivate himself, or even one that’s motivated by his family disappearing, blaming the Avengers for not doing enough to stop him. None of that will happen now. I decided to put it here because it’s a three-hour film that I watched on a flight and didn’t feel the urge to skip any of it.

Original review here

+The sheer sense of scale.

-What it closes off. Also the “big emotional moment” was incredibly obvious.

Childs Play

Damn this was entertaining. This had a lot working against it, not only was it a remake (I say “was”, still is, not as though it’s status as a remake has changed), it’s a remake of a film franchise which I’m very familiar with and kind of love. It was made without the consent of the original creators, whilst the franchise is still going strong (unlike Nightmare On Elm Street etc, where it’s pretty safe to say the original franchise is dead). If this had major flaws, trust me I would have picked up on them and used them as a stick to beat the bloated corpse of a terrible movie with. But it was hard to think of any major flaws with this movie. The biggest one isn’t even a dealbreaker for me; it’s just that it feels a little restrained, like it could go further. I’ve read some reviews which talk about the teenage characters being annoying; personally, I found them funny. They weren’t fully realised people, but then again teenagers aren’t. Their decisions made sense considering their age and personalities. So yeah I enjoyed this film. I found it a worthy addition to the name and a good way to kick-off a new franchise (which this is so obviously trying to do)

Original review here

+Mark Hamill’s performance.

-The scene in the toy store near the end REALLY needs to be more brutal and more chaotic. Some scenes feel slightly neutered, and none more so than this.

Fighting With My Family

Personal bias; I loved this movie. I found it heartwarming with great performances and engaging characters. Yes it takes A LOT of, shall we say, “creative liberties” with the truth but I feel it has to. Professional Wrestling is a really weird industry at the best of times, once you get into “yeah she was in the developmental company which gets higher review ratings than the main show, but MUCH lower ratings, so whilst she was never likely to lose her job, her promotion to the main roster was still a bit of a surprise”. This film would not work if it wasn’t for Florence Pugh. She doesn’t do a great impression of who she plays, but she embodies the character so perfectly that it’s hard to unsee her as who she’s supposed to be. Essentially she’s not doing a good impression of her, she’s doing an impression of what your memory thinks of her. Subtle difference but very important.

Original review here

+So darn lovely at times.

-The woman it’s based on was forced to retire before this movie came out and the movie never mentions it, just bad timing.

Happy Death Day 2 U

This is not as tight as the first one, not by a long shot. It’s still a great movie though. Yes the sci-fi based plot isn’t as good as the more straight-up horror of the first one, but there’s just something so endearing about this film. A lot of if is down to the performances of the two leads; Jessica Roth and Israel Broussard. Not only do they have great chemistry but they are great individually too. There’s a scene where Jessica Roths character is in an alternate universe and realises her mother is alive in this one, I defy anybody to watch it and not feel for her. Similarly when she’s trying to decide whether to go back to a universe without her parent in it, or to stay in one with a parent who has memories of things she doesn’t. It’s a compelling character piece and would be ideal for a really depressing short film.

Original review here

+The montage editing is superb. Plus it feels like a second part of the first movie, rather than a sequel. It doesn’t feel tacked on, it slots in perfectly.

-Not quite as good as the first one, and the ending feels a bit cruel

John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum

This film features Keanu Reeves riding a horse in a city and killing people. Of course, I’m going to love this. I will admit this is not as good as the first two; it goes on a little bit too long and the sequel-hook is a little bit too obvious. Quite a few scenes really drag to the point where if the cinematography wasn’t as impressive as it is you’d be bored. This rating all depends on the next move though. If the next film is poor then this will be known as the film where the cracks started showing. I have faith that the next film will still be good though, so it stays here, for now.

Original review here

+The world building is immense.

-A bit too long at times.

Knives Out

Was genuinely surprised by this, which is a bit weird as it had really good reviews and people seemed to love it. I guess I just thought that it would be one of those films that I would just not “get”. But yeah I loved this. I have a soft spot for ensemble cast films, mainly because they’re really hard to do without having some characters seeming underwritten. Now that I think of it though, that’s usually a bigger issue with multi-story films (such as Men, Women And Children) than ensemble films. I’m also a sucker for mystery films, I like it when they’re so well written that when the reveal happens you feel like an idiot for not getting it earlier because in retrospect it was obvious but you didn’t realise at the time. This gets it out of the way by revealing the “killer” very early on, but then giving you another mystery to solve, albeit one which isn’t as unobvious as it thinks it is.

Original review here

+The script, it’s that damn good

-Not quite as slick as it could be.

Late Night

I have a lot of personal love for this film. I loved the story being told, the characters, and how funny it was. It had a real warmth to it, but not a nice warmth that you feel envelop you like a hug, this was a warmth that stings. The satire is razor-sharp and accurate, to the point where it’s kind of depressing as the points they’re making are ones we should be past as a society by now. The main draw is the chemistry the two leads have; the role was allegedly written specifically for Emma Thompson by the other lead (Mindy Kaling) and you can tell this is kind of a dream project for Kaling. When I criticise films I often say “I can’t imagine someone fighting and dreaming to write this script”. With this I can. It feels like a script that Kaling NEEDED to get out of her.

Original review here

+So damn relevant

-Doesn’t seem to make the most of opportunities to make it seem like it exists in this world. There are a lot of chances to have cameos but it doesn’t take them.

Rocketman

Why was this not a bigger film? The fact that this film got less Oscar nominations than Bohemian Rhapsody is a travesty. Everything Bohemian Rhapsody did well, this did a lot better. The performances, the directing, the story, all of it was better; plus it didn’t tell lies about a real persons death to sell the narrative. Some people didn’t like that the film occasionally resembled a musical, I thought that was a perfect way to do it though. This is Elton John, you can’t do a standard film for someone like him, it has to be something extravagant and extra. Let’s be honest, does Bohemian Rhapsody really tell us ANYTHING about who Queen were as a band? This film tells you who Elton John is through the style, and that’s brilliant. It also shows you how many brilliant songs he’s done in his life.

Original review here

+Incredibly honest about his flaws.

-Some of the supporting characters seem a little underwritten.

Shazzam

So damn warm. The second best DCU film (Wonder Woman is top in case you were wondering) I’ve seen. I realise this film is heavily flawed; the pace is slow at the start, there are sections where the villain is missing, and it doesn’t have a unique visual style. It didn’t matter to me though. It was so enjoyable it allowed me to ignore the multiple flaws. I realise now that feeling matters a lot to me in films. If it gives my cynical self that feeling of magic it increases the chance of me loving it. If when I watch it I’m genuinely transported outside of myself. This does that perfectly.

Original review here

+Zachary Levi NAILS the performance perfectly.

-Needs a distinct visual style to truely be great.

Spider-Man: Far From Home

OMG, Mysterio turned out to be the bad guy? Who would have guessed? Well, everybody, let’s face it. It still worked though. We knew he’d be bad, but the way they did it was brilliant (albeit the worry that both of the Spider-Man villains seem to hate Iron Man more than they hate Peter Parker won’t go away). Watched this again recently and it still holds up. It’s probably one of the most visually interesting earth-based MCU films, some of the hallucination sequences are stunning to watch, incredibly inventive. You do have to question the logic of having such an obvious sequel hook when you’re not 100% certain you’re going to retain the rights to the character though.

Original review here

+So funny.

-Can we please have a Spider-man villain who’s motivation isn’t Tony Stark?

Toy Story 4

I had doubts about this, how can you make this film work after the almost perfect ending of the third one? Well, you do it like this. The Toy Story franchise has a great approach to sequels. You never think they’re essential until you watch them and then you wonder how the franchise coped without them. The new characters work well too, Tony Hale, in particular, gives a wonderful performance full of just enough depth and comedic background to make a suicidal spork seem like it fits into the universe.

Original review here

+It looks GLORIOUS

-Wait, so sporks are sentient now? Great, I now have to feel guilty about how I treat cutlery. Thanks.

Us

Expectations were high for this after the success of Get Out. Personally, I think this met them. The story is great, with smart social commentary and absolute genius use of foreshadowing meaning you don’t fully get it until the second viewing, when you can watch it and appreciate all the genius moments in it. The performances are great two, almost everyone plays two distinct characters in it, yet I think even without the costumes you’d be able to understand who is who due to how the actors distinguish each character through facial expressions and how they carry themselves. Best horror I saw all year, by a long shot.

Original review here

+The sense of unease over the entire thing so that even something as simple as a family walking on a beach is somehow unsettling.

-Not quite as well written as Get Out.

Wild Rose

Another film that I feel was robbed from an Oscar nomination it deserved; specifically, best original song. Bear in mind that’s coming from somebody who doesn’t like country music. But the music in this is so well done, so full of emotion that it doesn’t matter to me. It’s helped by the central performance. Jesse Buckley plays the role with such iron vulnerability that it’s hard to feel anything but joy for her when things start to go well for her.

Original review here

+The heart to it.

-Occasionally it seems like things only happen because the story needs it to.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)

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.

Deadpool 2 (2018)

I remember a few weeks ago I saw reports from an early preview of this, and they were, well they were not kind. Actually, “scathing” would be a proper response. It got to the point where apparently the studio was making a few changes and reshoots. I’m not sure what, and how many changes they made but it proves one of two (completely contradictory things). Either:

  • The studio knows what they’re doing and made the right changes to fix it.

Or

  • The early reports were all wrong.

There’s no way THIS was the film that was hated. If you liked the first film, you’ll like this. It’s like the first one, but a lot more. It’s funnier, more brutal, a lot more meta, and has a much better story. Let’s tackle those subjects one by one.

Funnier

This might be due to the way I saw it. I saw the first one twice at the cinema, both times it wasn’t really that busy. As such you couldn’t judge how funny it was, you could only judge how funny I personally found it. This was different, it was the first screening so the screen was almost completely full. As such when jokes hit, you know about it as it feels like the entire room is laughing with you (as opposed to laughing at you, which is not as fun). The laughs are not only better, but there’s a lot more of them. They come quick and come often, like a pervert in the lingerie section of M&S. It’s almost Airplane levels of “jokes per minute” for most the film. With one MAJOR exception. Towards the end, there’s a 2-3 minute section with zero laughs. I know it doesn’t sound long, but it is, if you don’t believe me, stick your hand in boiling water for 3 minutes. That 3 minutes is REALLY good too, full of so much emotion that it makes up for almost the complete lack of nuance in the first one.

More brutal

The vultures started circling for this film when it was announced that Tim Miller, the director of the first film, wasn’t coming back due to creative differences. As such people wondered whether the second one would, or even could, be as good as the first one. Luckily they got David Leitch, best known for John Wick and Atomic Blonde. I do like Tim Miller, but his style was very video-gamey, the film didn’t really look “real”, so even when horrific injuries occurred on screen, it didn’t really have the same impact it should have done. Leitch is the complete opposite, just like the aforementioned Blonde and Wick, you feel the hits. When people got hit, you could hear people in the audience wince with pain. This means the fights and action scenes seem like they have consequences. Also, the violence means they can redeem a previously laughed at character. Last time we saw this character he was basically a joke played by a former footballer, this time he tears Deadpool in half and threatens to turn Colossus into a cock ring.

More Meta (Spoilers)

If you plan on seeing the film, close your eyes now, and open them when I tell you. Done it? Good. Those idiots, they won’t able to read when I tell them to open their eyes those gullible fools. They’ll be walking around with their eyes closed forever, they’re going to walk into traffic and possibly die. Oh God, what have I done? Anyway, spoilers. The mid credit sequence for this features Deadpool killing the Deadpool from X:Men Origin Wolverine in a remade scene from that film, and then killing Ryan Reynolds as he reads The Green Lantern script. It also features a cameo from most of the X-men, in the background. There’s also a scene where they say “and if we do this, there won’t be a third act”. It’s deliciously meta and brilliant, I love it.

Better story.

Judging from the trailer, what do you think this film is about? You’re wrong. The trailer only really covers half the film, the final half takes it in such an unexpected direction, and one you didn’t expect, but makes a lot of sense. Criticism of the first one was that the story and the villains were lacking, definitely not the case here. The story is, whilst not exactly To Kill A Mockingbird, is multi-layered and not exactly something you can call rushed or lazy. It also has genuine emotion, like, an actual tear-causing emotional scene, It also has the first (that I can think of) openly gay relationship in mainstream superhero cinema.

The downsides: there’s quite a lot you feel could be cut. Large amounts of fluff, but it’s incredibly funny fluff, so it works. There are moments where you feel like the writers themselves have forgotten small parts of the story. Also, it has to be said, they could have cut TJ Miller. Not only they could, they SHOULD have cut TJ Miller. The sexual assault allegations are one thing. You could argue that someone shouldn’t lose their job over unproven allegations, no matter how heinous (despite the fact that this seemed to have multiple witnesses). But then he called in a fake bomb threat to get back at a random woman on the train. His scenes could have been replaced with someone else easily enough, and it’s a black mark against the film that it didn’t.

But despite that, I highly recommend this film if you enjoyed the first one. It’s like the first one, but turned up to 11.

 

Red Sparrow (2018)

There’s a scene in this where one of the characters is tied to a chair and has their skin slowly stripped off layer by layer. It’s still less painful than watching this film. Okay, that’s a bit hyperbolic, but there’s a lot of truth in that. I will not look back on this fondly, for multiple reasons. One, it wasted a good cast: Jennifer Lawrence is actually really good, just the film is bad. Same goes for Jeremy Irons et al. The story itself just isn’t good enough. To be an effective film of this genre you need to be one of two things:

  1. Lots of fun and expertly made (John Wick,  Atomic Blonde, the Bourne/Bond series etc)
  2. Incredibly clever, with more twists and turns than a rollercoaster someone makes in a video game.

This was neither, I’m thinking it was aiming more towards the second one but wasn’t quite good enough to do it. I mean, it does have a twist, but it only really effects the final 5 minutes, it doesn’t affect the way you watch the film. You won’t watch it for a second time and delight in the intricate way the ending was set up throughout the film. There are no layers, no hidden depths to the film. Everyone pretty much says what their intentions are, all the time.

I get what they were going for; kind of like an 80’s Sex and Soviet’s style spy film. But they’ve forgotten one thing: those films were fucking terrible. They were badly written, misogynistic as hell, and treated sex the same way virgin fan fiction writers do. It doesn’t even have the decency to look impressive, even The Snowman managed that, and I’m pretty sure the script for that was written on a napkin. Spy films should look crisp and clear, the brutality of the actions contrasting with the stark nature of the surroundings. This just looks dreary, like it’s taking place in Milton Keynes whilst it’s about to rain. These kinds of films deserve to be great, they should take your breath away, and this one doesn’t (although if someone did say they were going to choke me during it, I probably would have accepted the offer as it would have made a nice distraction).

As you can probably tell, I was not a fan of this film. It wasn’t without merit, the performances are good, and the way they set up the films universe was good, it’s just almost everything else which didn’t work. This seems very “first draft”. Like if you looked at it again you could fix it, make a few tweaks here and there, cut out the unnecessary scenes (and at 140 minutes, trust me, there’s A LOT of that), set up the ending better, and you’ll have a pretty damn good film. You could get a somewhat decent film if you edited this differently, but the way it is? Wouldn’t recommend. I wouldn’t even watch this if it got put on netflix. Really disappointing as I had high hopes for this.

Why We Love…..John Wick.

Directed by: Chad Stahelski, David Leitch

Budget: $20million

Box Office: $86 Million

So this week the teaser trailer for John Wick: Chapter 2 dropped, with the full trailer being released tomorrow at New York Comic-Con. Usually I hate the idea of trailers for trailers, but I think I finally get their purpose. They’re basically a “heads up”, a “keep your eyes out for later this week”, and I know for certain that I’ll be searching for the trailer on Sunday. It helps that I really love the title for some reason, it’s both ordinary and superb at the same time. The original had a real sense of being part of a wider universe. There were a lot of moments in it which set up that this world wasn’t just for the benefit of the main characters, you got the feeling that everything continued to exist even once the camera stopped rolling. I remember coming out of that and wondering whether it was a comic book adaptation, it genuinely felt like one, but a good one.

screen-shot-2015-08-07-at-3-26-36-am
So not this, definitely not this

I will admit I went into this with low expectations, I’ve never really rated Keanu Reeves that consistent, he’s had flashes of brilliance but I would never think “I’m really looking forward to the new Keanu Reeves movie” I went in basically expecting a dumb but fun action movie. Whilst it is fun it is definitely something more than that. The films starts off with his wife dying, now most films would have her killed by a dickbag (not a literal one), and then the hero has to go through and avenge her death. But this? This has her die of an unspecified disease, but before she dies she arranges for him to get a puppy to help him cope with her death. The villains in this KILL THE DOG! Most films don’t do that, even Kick-Ass 2 which was ultra violent had the lead villain balk at the idea of killing a dog (in the movie anyway), so the fact that it’s that which kicks off the story is a brave piece of storytelling, and it’s effective. He doesn’t even spend the film chasing the guys who did it, he gets his retaliation in then has to deal with the person’s father who’s the head of a crime family. The entire story is not generic revenge, it’s about dealing with the consequences of your actions, the second half of the film is basically what a lesser film would put in the sequel.

john-wick

But it’s not just the story it’s telling, it’s the way it’s told that is effective too. It looks beautiful, yes it’s quite dark in terms of lighting, but it’s not in a bleak way, it uses bright lights often to create the contrast between light and dark, it’s like an extremely toned down neon noir film. The choreography is superb as well, I do love a good fight scene in films, but only when done a certain way (I’m quite picky). I hate the fight scenes where every single punch/kick etc is accompanied by a cut, where the scenes cuts away just on the impact. It can be effective tool to use, but when it’s used with every single impact it just makes the scene disorientating, particularly when you change the focal point with the cuts so your eyes are constantly wandering (although Mad Max: Fury Road did this superbly where even when they changed angles they kept the action almost dead centre). This film does cut on impact occasionally but it also lingers long enough for the punches to have an impact. Both the colour and the choreography can be showcased best in this scene.

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Or just this

The film is even more impressive when you realise it’s a directorial debut for both directors. Previously they’d done mostly stunk work and assistant directing (it was actually their stunt work on The Matrix which led to Keanu Reeves suggesting them directing this), but they definitely step up to the plate here and knock it out the park. Utilising visual techniques from anime films, choreography (particularly in regards to “gun fu”) from Honk Kong cinema, mixed with an almost old-school Western movie vibe (to the point where if I had to put this in a genre I’d say “Neon Western”) combine to make something truly exciting even on mute. Even the character’s costume has a good look to it, it’s kind of “priestly gangster” and works well for the character. Basically I can’t oversell this film enough, it’s superb and you should see it.

Also watch:

The Drop. Another film I saw with low expectations which ended up being a personal favourite. Tom Hardy is superb and the storytelling is brilliant.

Nightcrawler. Similarly coloured, also great.