Joyride (2022)

Quick synopsis: Joy is on a journey to abandon her baby when the taxi she’s in is stolen by a teen in this coming-of-age comedy-drama.

Does Olivia Colman know she’s a star? She’s probably one of the best performers in the world right now, yet she’s still in films that people at a similar level would see as beneath them. She is so without ego that it’s actually impressive, and it can only be a good thing for filmmakers. I’m not sure I would have watched this if she wasn’t attached. I’m sort of glad I did. I mean, it’s not the greatest film in the world, but it’s not the worst. It’s a film that shows great potential for everybody involved. Neither the director (Emer Reynolds), the writer (Ailbhe Keogan), nor the male lead (Charlie Reid, playing Andrew) even has a Wikipedia page at the moment, but on the evidence of this, that should change for all three of them.

It is a fun script, but it could do with being both more subtle, and more in-your-face. Andrew is too good, he’s introduced stealing money, but it’s from his dad who stole it from a hospice collection, so Andrew is planning to return it. It means there’s no ambivalence toward him, you know he’s always going to do the right thing. So when, later in the film, he comes to a moral crossroads; chosing the right thing to do, and going back to his nefarious dad, you already know what he’s going to do so the moment doesn’t seem as powerful as it would otherwise. It’s supposed to be an ethical dilemma, but it never feels like one because the film hasn’t shown the chance of him going the other way.

On the subject of his dad, he’s supposed to be feared and violent, but we’re not really shown that. I’m not saying we need a scene of him smacking a kid, but it would have helped build him up. Also, he shouldn’t have been in it so much. If you keep him as an unseen threat, then, ironically, it would make him seem a bigger threat.

Now onto the good, it has some very good moments. Olivia Colman’s flashback is incredibly powerful. I also respect how well it uses time. The entire plot is kicked off within 4 minutes (that’s including the opening logos and credits). It moves at such a pace that while watching it, you’re never going to feel bored or look at your watch. There’s also a scene on a plane near the end which is genuinely hilarious and has some great one-shot characters.

In summary, I feel this is destined to be included in a “oh, you liked this film the director made? Well one of their earliest ones was Joyride” conversation. An early oddity in a future career of greatness.

Rons Gone Wrong (2021)

Quick synopsis: A socially awkward child gets a robot friend that is broken.

A lot of people like this film, I’d heard some very good things about it. My opinion? It’s okay. It’s not something I regret watching, and it is better than you may think it would be, but it’s not among the strongest kids films of the year (that probably peaked at the start with Soul and Luca).

It was recently made available on disney+, and I feel that’s a good decision. This film was made for family watching, everyone gathering around a television on boxing day and watching together while they’re too full of cheese to move. And as good as this film is, I’m not sure it will be in the public consciousness this time next year so they had to get it on there now to make use of its recent cinema appearance and positive reviews.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about this film. It has heart, it looks FANTASTIC, and the cast is full of people you love. It has a good mix of people you expect and respect (Olivia Colman), actors you’re kind of surprised but it’s nice to see (Ed Helms), and then some strange choices that you can’t help but love (Ruby Wax).

This isn’t the first film to look at the growing encroachment of technology into kids lives, but it does do it better than others have tried, mainly because it seems to actually understand the technology. Watch something like The Emoji Movie for comparison which seemed like it was written by people who still call all video game consoles “Atari”. The interactions between the characters and technology are so realistic that it seems hauntingly dystopian. The humans themselves aren’t quite as well done on their own though. There are some moments between the characters in this that don’t really feel true, some interactions between them don’t feel earned.

Really the biggest downside is it came out the same year as The Mitchells Vs. The Machines, which dealt with similar topics, also had the main AI developed by a young black developer (Justice Smith in RGW, Eric Andre in Mitchells), and both feature Olivia Colman. So comparisons are inevitable, and when you do that, this can’t help but look weaker by comparison. It’s a shame, as look at it on its own and this is a fine movie. But it does seem destined to the Shark Tale to Mitchell’s Nemo.

The Father (2020)

This film is a mess. The way it’s edited means it lacks any sense of cohesive structure. It’s incredibly difficult to figure out what the hell is going on and you sit there for most of the film being confused and trying to make sense of it all.

And I love it. That’s the best way to tell this story, it’s certainly the most effective. It’s all well and good telling people about the horrifying effects of suffering with dementia, but this is the best way to actually SHOW it, to put you in the shoes of someone with it. The confusion, the mixing up of times and characters (there are moments where the characters are suddenly played by different actors). I’m a big fan of when narrative structure suits the film. If this was a standard A-B film it probably still would have been good, but that’s all it would have been, good. It wouldn’t have been as great as it is. It wouldn’t have been as impactful as it is. It wouldn’t have caused almost everybody in the cinema to break into tears at the end.

Jesus, the end. Spoilers here I guess, but this isn’t really a film you watch for the narrative, you watch it for the experience (and it’s certainly an experience). You may survive the rest of the film untouched (you monster) but I doubt you’ll make it through the ending feeling nothing. For the rest of the film you’re confused, bewildered, and trying to ground yourself (damn I love how it puts you in his shoes), but for this moment? You know what’s going on, and it devastates you. It’s just Anthony Hopkins saying he feels his mind going (or as it’s brilliantly put: he’s losing his leaves), and he cries and begs for his mommy. The helplessness and weakness he shows is heartbreaking. Especially since Hopkins normally plays characters who are not just in control, but usually the smartest person in the room. So to see him do that really hits home how bad it can get.

Olivia Colman also knocks it out the park, as she usually does. When exactly did she become that damn good? It’s still weird to see her as this acting behemoth capable of making you feel every emotion, when I still can’t unsee her characters from Mitchell And Webb. I never would have guessed when she was doing comedy like that that she’d turn into what she has, and I’ve got to be honest, I’m still not entirely sure when it happened, was it Broadchurch?

The downside of this film? The directing could be a bit stronger at times. The director (Florian Zeller) has a history in theatre, and that shows in his directing choices. There are a lot of static shots, there is not a lot here in terms of shot composition that you couldn’t do on a stage. Compare this to something like Mouthpiece (yes, I’m mentioning that film again, because I know you haven’t seen it and you really should), also based on a play, but did things in the film that would not be possible on stage, and was all the better for it. He did some things which were great, but I feel a lot of that (changing the set subtly between scenes) is taken from the play. Controversial opinion: maybe should have had someone on set who’s experienced in horror movies. Not to add lots of jump scares and threatening chords, but just to amp up the fear factor the character is feeling. If you’ve got someone who is experienced in making characters seem more helpless in certain situations, it might have improved certain scenes and helped them achieve more.

That’s a very small niggle though, you still need to watch this film. Either see it at the cinema, or wait until it’s shown on Channel 4 at Christmas. A truly powerful piece of cinema that deserves watching.

Although it does seem weirdly French for some reason. Just tonally.

How We Got Through…January 2017

Let’s face it, this year has not got off to a good start. Not even a month in and we’ve already lost John Hurt, our governments have been so devastated by that news that in tribute they’ve decided to turn the world into a fully interactive version of 1984 running 24/7  . In times of crisis we have two options; we can either 1) Help solve the problem. 2) Ignore the problem and lose ourselves in film, television, video games and music. Obviously we did number two. So here’s how we got through the first month of this year

Film

A Monster Calls

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This is not an easy film to watch on an emotional level, one of the few films I’ve seen lately that seeks to emotionally blackmail the watcher. Definitely the best looking film I’ve seen at the cinema this year (note: it’s the only film I’ve seen at the cinema this year). One of the few downsides is Sigourney Weaver’s English accent, which is slightly uneven throughout. Reminiscent of a mix between Pan’s Labyrinth and a Neil Gaiman book, can be best described as a modern day fairy tale. Bayona did a fantastic job of directing this, whilst the Liam Neeson tree is telling stories (it’s an odd film) 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 his 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.

Tyrannosaur

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Whilst A Monster Calls is bleak, it cannot hold a candle to this. A film which begins with someone kicking a dog to death, gets progressively bleaker, and then culminates in the lead character decapitating a dog and sitting there with it’s head in his lap, with tales of domestic abuse and rape in the middle. If you know someone who is annoyingly optimistic and happy, show them this film, you will break them. Still a major disappointment that Olivia Colman didn’t win a BAFTA for this, didn’t even get nominated which is a shame as I truly believe she’s one of the best British Actresses around at the moment, nobody can wring emotion from a story like she can.

The Lego Movie

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This was mainly to recover from Tyrannosaur. Brought for £5 from Morrisons and I feel like I cheated them somehow by getting it so cheap. The film equivalent of a rainbow emanating from a bowl of skittles and raining sunshine and joy onto people below. One of the few films this year which has made me genuinely laugh out loud multiple times, which takes some doing as I’m a miserable bastard.

Books

Artemis Fowl – Eoin Colfer

Slightly too anvilicious in it’s environmental message, but otherwise it’s fantastic literature. Brilliant characterisation as well, the series is basically about somebody becoming a hero over the course of 8 books, and he was very evil in the first book so it was a long journey. A tale of growing up, a tale of greed, and a tale of humanity. One of the the best children’s book series I’ve ever read, it’s basically Die Hard with fairies, if the lead character was Light from Death Note. A film adaptation directed by Kenneth Branagh is hopefully on the way, and he’s a director who I feel can really do it justice.

TV Shows

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

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I know, I go on about this all the time, but there’s a reason for that; because I love it so much. Funny, heartbreaking and with songs so catchy it’s almost suspicious.

Insert Name Here

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An odd panel show on BBC (previous episodes available on iPlayer) about people. Basically they answer questions about historical figures and celebrities who all share the same name. Each episode focuses on a different name, so, for example, the episode this week was based on Charlie, so you had the teams answer questions about famous people called Charlie. Hosted by Sue Perkins, with Josh Widdicombe and Richard Osman From Pointless (to give him his full name) as team captains. A show which I can’t imagine working on any other channel than the BBC, and which wouldn’t be made by any other country than this one. Very very funny, and you learn a lot too.

 

 

Music

Lonely Daze – Kate Tempest

Completely different from what I imagined Kate Tempest would sound like, but oh so good. A wonderful piece of lyrical storytelling that you can just put on and lose yourself to.

Stars – Nina Simone

I first heard it in Bojack Horseman, and it has stuck with me ever since. Beautifully emotional, like proper tears and angry shaking emotion. The kind of song you’d drink yourself to death to.

 

So that’s how we got through this month, what did you use?