Earlier this year I reviewed Fantasy Island, and in that review I said “the”,which was probably the only word I used in the review which wasn’t insulting it. It’s time to admit there was something good from that film, before it I had the trailer for this. If it wasn’t for that I wouldn’t know about it, which would be a shame.
I mean, it’s also a shame that this film got put on netflix, it would have been nice to see this in the cinema (and I get the feeling I’ll be saying that A LOT this year), as I feel it deserves that.
It’s not the best film in the world, but it is pretty solid with nothing to truly hate about it. The characters are well-written and all their decisions make sense, even when they are stupid decisions they have a certain logic to them.
The core of this film is the central relationship between Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae (while we’re on the subject; how refreshing is it to see a film like this being lead by two non-white performers and not have that being their defining character trait?). This film does the smartest thing I’ve seen in a while in how it shows their relationship, it shows them first meeting and awkwardly flirting, and then cuts to years later when the relationship is in turmoil. The fact we see them happy means that we are invested in their relationship as we know what they can be together, otherwise we’d just be sitting there screaming “FFS just end it”, but because we know how happy they can be, we want them to work it out, and you need that. Trust me, you do need that, because the break-up scenes hit HARD. Much much harder than you’d expect a film like this to. You genuinely feel like both characters are a single comment away from a complete breakdown. Whether it’s criticising their work on documentaries “documentaries are reality shows that nobody watches”, or their personality types. When they argue, they aim low, and it’s painful to see (in a good way).
Now onto the actual story, about them attempting to uncover the truth behind a stranger getting in their car (who they think is a cop) and running someone over, repeatedly, to incredibly uncomfortable silence. Since it’s in their car, and they get found by two hipsters (one of whom takes a photo of the body, called it) who call the police “I’d like to report a murder or whatever”. They assume they’re going to be blamed for the murder, so run away and try to solve it themselves, all the while arguing. It’s not exactly the most original plot, but it is a lot of fun to watch. It does become original at the end though where the police say that they were never suspects, the original murder was caught on camera (obviously), and they just wanted to speak to them as they were witnesses. I like when films twist the common tropes like that, it was also done well in Keanu where the main characters were arrested because despite being innocent of murder, they still broke a lot of laws trying to clear their name.
So should you see this? Well it’s on netflix so you really should. The director’s previous film was The Big Sick, and whilst it’s nowhere near as good as that, it is still worth a watch.
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.
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.
Okay, the title is oversimplifying it a lot. These are just films I didn’t like, some aren’t necessarily bad, but were more a victim of hype. There’s going to be a few (and I can guess which ones) which a lot of people will disagree with, but taste is subjective so here goes, if you disagree, let us know with which ones. How I chose what to go in this was simple: these are the films that even if they were on tv and I had nothing to watch, I’d unplug my television and leave the house just so I don’t accidentally watch it. Oh, and there’s plenty of spoilers, so, be wary of that. In alphabetical order because, well how the darn else would I do it?
Why does this exist? Seriously, was anybody calling out for a remake of a pretty forgettable tv show? Doesn’t really work, at all. I think it’s because the show itself doesn’t have a massive fanbase, it hasn’t really entered the popular culture that much. Also, the film itself is bad. Not just bad, kind of problematic too. I don’t want to get all “SJW” here but one of the female characters in this film is basically just a vagina that rewards the main character with sex. She starts off hating him then grows to like him because, well, because the script tells her to. It’s not just her, most of the female characters are written as trophies for people to attain.
+ At least the cast look like they’re enjoying themselves.
-Almost everything else.
Genuinely thought this came out a few years ago. Would not have guessed this came out in 2017, I’d have guessed 2015 or something like that. Pretty much the film equivalent of a cheap cheeseburger, disposable, and you won’t remember it a few minutes after you finish it.
+Kumail Nanjiani is really funny in it. Not his best work this year, but he provides the best work in this film. Also, the story itself actually works. Characters motivations make sense.
-Doesn’t have enough jokes that land to really be effective.
Again, and this will come up a lot for this year (this blog in particular); why does this film exist? Is it the 90’s again? I don’t know too much about science (as my GCSE results show) but this film still set off my “that seems like bullshit” sirens (not as bad as the complete abomination that was After Earth, but still). Oh, and the ending was a fucking cop-out. Did one of those “the hero sacrifices himself for the greater good, everybody cry. Oh wait, nevermind, they got saved so the death doesn’t happen and meant nothing just for the sake of a happy ending” endings so they can have both the emotional climax and the happy ending instead of actually having to risk anything. Which reminds me, fuck Iron Man 3, I like that film more than most people but they should have had the guts to kill Paltrow in it.
+The action set pieces work and look good.
-Ed Harris turns out to be the bad guy, I think we were supposed to be surprised by that but it just seemed really obvious.
King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword
This is what happens when you write a film with the sole intention of setting up a franchise and deliberately hold back so much for sequels that you don’t put enough in it. The story and the style of directing didn’t mesh well together, it would be like directing Halloween using lots of bright colours and a spice girls soundtrack.
+Technically well directed.
-The box office returns have pretty much killed all hopes for it to be a franchise, so this story will forever be incomplete.
On rotten tomatoes this film has a score of 8%, I think that’s too high. Overly earnest and with a twist that’s so obvious I’m not sure it’s really a twist. A complete waste of both the audiences time and the actor’s talents. Everyone involved is much too good to be in this film.
+Very well directed, the story isn’t great but Farren Blackburn at least made it look good.
-Predictable as hell.
I’ve seen quite a few bad films at the cinema, but rarely are they as tedious as this was. You’d think a 90-minute action film set in Las Vegas would be exciting, you’d be wrong. The only reason certain things happen is because characters are idiots, for example at one point the villain points a loaded gun at the main character, now instead of shooting him, he takes a few steps backwards and gets run over a van (which he somehow didn’t hear coming, in an empty parking lot, the emptiness of which I have a problem with also). I’ve seen defences of this say “yeah but as long as you don’t think too hard about it it works. It’s just dumb fun”. And they’re half right, it’s dumb. It’s not nitpicking to point out that someone who has been stabbed (and for whom the wound continues bleeding for 4 hours) should be weakened by that. But nope, the only indication of it is that he occasionally stops and goes “ah”. A stab wound has the same effect as an ice cream headache. It’s a shame as the cast do their job well, it’s just the script is kinda dumb. There are some odd choices when it comes to directing too. You know that “shaky cam fight scene” that the Bourne movies use? They do that here, only they do it for EVERYTHING in the fight. Someone walks away after the fight; Shaky Bourne Camera, someone gets their phone out to phone someone: Shaky Bourne Camera. It also ends with the most obvious sequel hook in a long time, yet considering everybody in the cinema stood up the very second the credits started, I don’t think it’s going to be looked forward to that much. Maybe I’m spoiled by John Wick, which set my standards unbelievably high, but still, not a great film, it’s not even a good one. Which is a shame as it should be good, the story is at its base a very compelling one; a severely injured person in an action movie in a city that never sleeps. Opportunities for lots of good set pieces and should look superb. But nope, just dull.
-So dumb and flawed that it’s impossible to look past them.
Not bad, just disappointing. Very bland, the kind of film you see and then immediately forget. Shame as it has some very good moments in it, but some of the jokes fall flat and land not with raucous laughter, but with silence. Same with directing too, a lot of the visual and editing decisions are kind of strange. All in all, it seems like every part of it was the first draft, every shot closing not with “perfect, one more for safety” but “that will do for now”. Same with the script, entire scenes seem like bits which should have been taken out in a second draft.
+Joan Cusack is brilliant.
-The sense of disappointment that this is Goldie Hawn’s first film in over a decade.
The Belko Experiment
Not really a fan of it. For this film to work you need it to be one of two things:
Really stylish and brutal.
This is neither. It seems to run out of ideas by the end of the trailer. It would be a really good short film, but for it to be a full-length feature it needs something else, it needs a twist, it needs to amaze and surprise you in the final third, it needs something, ANYTHING that you didn’t see coming. As it is….nothing. It doesn’t say or do anything really unique and fresh.
+Good performances in it. John Gallagher Jr. is particularly impressive.
The Bye Bye Man
A film that really earnt the bad reviews it got. This film fails because of one thing; it does a TERRIBLE job of mythology setting. It doesn’t build up the villain at all really. As such you don’t really know much about the motivations, powers, etc. It also did something that way too many horror movies do lately that I detest: hallucinations as scares (seriously, that’s happened in a ridiculously high amount of films lately). Basically “argh, scary thing, oh wait it’s not real, OR IS IT? no, it’s not, OR IS IT?” repeated ad nauseam.
+Would be a good first draft.
-A lot of things are bad about this film, but the worst is still the title.
The Dark Tower
It’s very, very bad. Idris Elba really needs to fire his agent, out of a cannon, into a brick wall so he can’t convince him what roles to take any more. Really, he deserves better than this, actually, he deserves better than most films he’s in. A shame as he is good, he just seems to pick bad roles when it comes to film. Very disappointed with this as I was intrigued by the trailers, I thought all the bad reviews were wrong, but nope, they were accurate. It’s just as bad as the reviews say. I read a review that summed it up well:
“Elba’s a good Roland in a movie that doesn’t allow him to actually embody the character in any meaningful way. He’s undercut at every turn. The strongest stuff in the film is when Roland and Jake are bonding, but that relationship is so accelerated that there’s no room for an arc.”
I don’t say this often for terrible films, but this really could have benefited from being longer. 95 minutes is waaaaaay too short to delve into the mythology the books created.
+Matthew McConaughey is compelling as hell as the villain.
-A PG-13 adaptation of a Stephen King book that’s also really short. No way in hell this would work.
The Emoji Movie
So bland. Not even bad enough for me to say anything funny about it. Despite what some reviewers may say it’s not proof of all that is wrong with society, it’s not entirely evil, it’s just shit. Product placement was so blatant that it is slightly uncomfortable though.
+The non Emoji bits are actually pretty good and tell a good story. If this was done by Pixar it could have worked.
-This movie exists. This is like if you made a Tetris or Minecraft movie. Oh, wait, what’s that? Both of those are happening? F*ck you Hollywood.
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
A very Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller movie, for better and for worse (mostly worse). I don’t think I like Noah Baumbach as a writer. Nothing personal it’s just his stuff kind of grates with me for some reason. Basing this entirely on this and While We’re Young, but they both seemed very similar to me. Uncompelling characters talking way too much and being way too old to be acting like they are. Also, it’s the sense of false cosiness, it’s like a fake fireplace in a chain restaurant. You get what they’re going for but didn’t really hit it.
+Dustin Hoffman is delightful.
-During way too many moments did the thought “Stop whining and just move on already” enter my head.
You know what I said earlier about CHiPs having no reason to exist? Yup, same here. You know what I said earlier about King Arthur showing how it’s a bad idea to make a film with the intention of setting up a franchise? Yup, same here. You know what I said earlier about Geostorm attempting an emotional ending that backs away at the last minute? Yup, same here. And if you think this entry was repetitious, just try watching this fucking film.
+Sofia Boutella is really good in it and her character is actually very well done.
-Can be best summed up in two reviews I read: “The film delivers all the chases, explosions, zombies and ghosts you could ask for, and there are a few amusing lines and creepy moments, but, between the headache-inducing flashbacks and hallucinations, the narrative would be easier to follow if it were written in hieroglyphics”. and “some nice moments but is basically a mess. The plot sags like an aeon-old decaying limb, a jumble of ideas and scenes from what looks like different screenplay drafts”
The Space Between Us
I was actually looking forward to this. But no, just no. Asa Butterfield, Britt Robertson, and Gary Oldman do the best with what they can, but what they’re given was not great. My main issue is the obvious lack of scientific accuracy. May seem a bit nerdy, but it’s not high-level science they fail, what they do is the equivalent of a medical TV show saying “she got pregnant because she held hands with a man”. You wouldn’t see that on a TV show as it’s obviously false and only belongs in Alabama sex education classes.
+An interesting story underneath it all.
-Albeit very badly told.
A really good idea; a box that grants wishes but needs blood sacrifice to work. Could be a really compelling script about the moral quandary that goes on with an item like this. But nope, the main character is never bothered by what she did. She seems selfish and hateful to the point where when (spoilers) she dies at the end you don’t really care, you just think “okay, the villain’s dead now, good”. Shame as Joey King was REALLY good in other films but now I don’t trust her as an actress. The film itself also is kind of bland, Every idea it has comes from a better film.
+Shannon Purser is fantastic in this.
-Slightly racist in parts, really badly developed characters, a main character it’s impossible to root for.
After the craptastic double bill of Valerian and The Emoji Movie last week, finally I see something amazing (although I think it’s fair to say I didn’t exactly expect Emoji Movie to be anything other than bad): The Big Sick This film was as great as the combined awfulness of those two films. 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.
I’ve seen a lot of films at the cinema this year (45 to be precise), and this has had the best instantaneous audience feedback I’ve seen. I’ve seen horrors where a few people have sat there not flinching or jumping in fright, I’ve seen spectacle films where people are bored, and I’ve seen comedies where nobody is laughing. Everybody in the screen I was at reacted to this. They laughed at every joke (to the point where the laughter in the room was louder than the laughter on screen, in a scene set at a comedy club), people “awww’ed” at the right parts, it couldn’t have been more perfect if the film studio paid them to react like that.
It’s not a perfect film though. 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. It’s not helped by how great the rest of the cast are; Holly Hunter is superb, Ray Romano is perfect in this, and I really want to see Zoe Kazan in more stuff now.
This is definitely the best rom-com I’ve seen at the cinema all year. Not too difficult though, as it’s the only rom-com I’ve seen this year. There’s actually not been that much romance in cinema this year, the only films where the main focus of the film has been romance have been:
La La Land (musical drama)
The Space Between Us (science fiction)
That’s a shame though as despite being deeply cynical and incapable of love or any positive emotion towards others, I do have a soft spot for the genre. Definitely Maybe is the film that fully cemented my Ryan Reynolds obsession, and Chasing Amy did the same for Ben Affleck. I think it’s because they’re usually very people-based. Action films are about the set-pieces, horror films are about the effects, but for a rom-com to work you need two things:
They’re basically my kryptonite, especially dialogue. I’m a sucker for great dialogue, it’s probably why I seem to be the only person who liked Table 19 (actually I didn’t like it, I LOVED it, genuinely one of my favourite films of the year). 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. So many films are “you have to see this in the cinema!”. Think of Avatar, that film is the biggest grossing film of all time. When was the last time you watched it? Do you know anybody who has watched it at home? As Scott Mendelson wrote in Forbes almost 4 years ago
“Kids don’t play ‘Avatar’ on the playground nor with action figures in their homes. There is little-if-any ‘Avatar’-themed merchandise in any given store. Most general moviegoers couldn’t tell you the name of a single character from the film, nor could they name any of the actors who appeared in it … ‘Avatar’ didn’t inspire a legion of would-be ‘Avatar’ rip-offs, save perhaps for Walt Disney’s disastrous ‘John Carter.’ It didn’t set the mold for anything that followed save its use of 3D which turned the post-conversion tool into a valuable way to boost box office overseas”
With advances in technology happening at an astronomical rate, 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 a 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.