Black Christmas (2019)

So this will probably be the last film I see this year. In my review of Knives Out I mentioned that I think that probably be the last great film I see this year. After seeing this movie I can categorically say I was I definitely right. This movie is not a great movie. In fact it’s kind of bad, and for reasons I hate to bring up as it makes me sound like a dick. So the reason I didn’t like it? The politics. Now I don’t want to be one of those “keep politics out of films” dickheads. This is essentially a film about how patriarchal power structures silence and oppress women, particularly when it comes to justice for rape victims. That’s a message that is, depressingly, still incredibly relevant and is well worth discussing in a film, the issue is that the film itself isn’t good.  It means well and what it says are things that have to be said, but they have to be said better than this. I haven’t seen anything this hamfisted since Kermit’s date night.

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Not the worst thing someone has put in a pig though

It deals with themes such as sexual assault and the PTSD that can come from it, but it does it really badly. For a film about someone breaking out and trying to escape that memory, the main character isn’t given much of a personality outside of that. Almost all her actions (and most conversations) in the film come from that one event, so whilst the character is trying to not let it define her, the film insists upon it.

The other characters aren’t written much better either. Nobody is given any depth, especially the villains. Horror movies need compelling villains to kill characters, or you need characters you care about and feel scared for. This film has neither. The villains are so 2-dimensional they’re practically stick figures. I’ve had occasions where trailers have spoilt the film, this almost does it in the opening text crawl. It has a quote about using the supernatural to punish people made by a character who founded the college the film is set at. So when you see a statue of that same person oozing a black liquid then being used on people wearing the same clothes as the killer, you can pretty much guess what’s going on. That’s a big issue with this film; how predictable it is. As soon as I saw one character I literally thought “he’s too obviously evil to be evil”. But no, I was wrong, it turns out that he, and all the characters who you might think would be evil, turn out to be, shock horror, evil!

So the black sludge, the scene with the reveal is where the film takes a weird left turn. It manages to be both weird, and predictable. I get you don’t want to do the same thing as the original film, but when you divert this much from the original then what’s the point of remaking it anyway? It would be like doing a remake of Psycho and it turns out Norman Bates is possessed by a ghost. Actually, that is actually exactly what it is, the villains in this use the black sludge on impressionable students so that they get possessed by the founder of the college. Here, the film misses an opportunity to do two really interesting things.

One: a debate about whether possessed people who kill people are evil or whether the possession is to blame. Yeah, that doesn’t happen here, possessed or not, they all get locked in a room and burn to death.

Two: throughout the film, the main character gets close to a guy called Landon. He gets caught and possessed by the spirit of the founder. The college founder is an old white guy who owned slaves and is possessing men to get them into the positions of power which he feels they deserve. Now I don’t want to cast aspersions on a slave owner, but I don’t think his “only men should rule the world” extends to non-whites like Landon. The intersectional nature could have been a really interesting subject to tackle, but it doesn’t. And I think that’s REALLY white. I don’t get how they can miss such an obvious political point to make.

So should you see this film? Regrettably, I’d have to say no, it’s just not fun, or scary. It’s yet another horror film restricted by its rating as it can’t get as violent as it needs to at some points. This is very notable with one death where we see a dead body on a chair, it gets spun around and before we get a full shot of the face and the damage done to it, it cuts to a reaction shot. If you do that “slow-motion chair spin” shot it should end on a reveal of the face, that should be the closing shot of that sequence, the slow nature of the chair spin is a build-up to that moment. In this it’s like a build-up to the revelation that she’s dead, which is something the audience already knew from the second we saw her, so what was it for?

I haven’t seen the original (or the first remake) to judge whether it’s good compared to them, I imagine people who saw those will actively HATE this film as they change almost everything about the plot. I can’t imagine either of those two films are worse than this, but I can say with 100% certainty that it’s not as good as the song by the same name by former X-Ray Spex singer Poly Styrene

Knives Out (2019)

I went into this expecting to be slightly underwhelmed to be honest. I knew it had had good reviews, but I was concerned it would be overly stylised and too self-knowing to truly be enjoyable for me on a personal level. Yeah, I was wrong. I loved this film, it will probably be the last “great” film I see this year. December is usually full of overly sentimental family movies, so I can’t see anything topping this. Still, what a way for the year to end. This is one of the best scripts I’ve seen in a film all year. It reminds me of Searching, which as anybody who speaks to me for more than a few minutes will know is a good thing. Like that film, this is also one which goes where you wouldn’t expect it to. That’s always a good sign for a whodunnit. If you figure out the ending in the opening thirty minutes of the film, the film has failed (the exception is Murder On The Orient Express, I already knew the ending of that film but it was so well done that the film was enjoyable anyway). This is different though, you get told the “killer” relatively early on, the rest of the film is dealing with hiding that fact, and figuring out who hired the detective in the first place.

This could be viewed as a mistake, if the audience is here to find out the killer then why are you revealing it that early? The answer? Because they can. The script is good enough to carry that subverted expectation. It’s not just a good script in terms of story, the dialogue is brilliant too. It’s REALLY subtle in parts, there are unsaid jokes throughout the whole thing. My two favourites are in regards to how the family speak to Marta, the recently deceased’s nurse. When we first see her a member of the family comes up to her and says “I wanted you at the funeral, but the rest of the family voted against it”, and you feel “oh, well at least that family member is nice”, but then it happens again, and again, and again. Practically every family member says that to her. The other thing they say: her families country of origin. They all say different ones. Some say “your family came here from Ecuador”, whereas some describe her family as coming from Mexico. It’s a brilliantly subtle piece of writing that indicates how the family actually view her, and the fact it’s never explicitly pointed out is genius, once you realise it you’ll laugh every time it happens again. It was so subtle I expected it to be brought up later as a plot point and be flashbacked back to in a montage so you realise “oh yeah”, but it never was, and for that it deserves applause.

It’s not just the script though, the acting is brilliant too. It’s been marketed as an ensemble film but I wouldn’t really say that’s the case. There are definitely a few main characters, in reality, it’s more of an ensemble supporting cast. Some of the characters are entertaining but nowhere near enough is done with them. I can’t really go into more details without spoilers but trust me, there are some actors in this who deserve more.

If I had to say something bad about this film? I’d struggle to find something to be honest. The directing could be slightly better. It looks great, some of the images the film constructs are superb, but there is a feeling it could flow slightly better visually. Like if you took each shot individually it looks great, but put together they’re only okay. Compared to the way that someone like Edgar Wright does visuals and you get the feeling it’s somewhat lacking. For a normal film, this would be fine, and the shot constructions would lead to it looking fantastic. But for a film with performances and a script THIS good, it pales in comparison. The script is a 9.7/10, the directing is “only” a 7.9. Yeah, I’m really struggling to find bad things about this film if THAT’s what I’m going with. Go see it at the cinema, I’m probably going to do so again.

Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)

Film reviews can be many things: they can be an analysis of the techniques used, a discussion on the relevance of the film subject in a modern world, or even a way to showcase hidden depths within a media some might think of as shallow. Well, professional reviews are anyway, with me, they are basically a long pretentious way to answer one question: Should I see this movie?

With this, I’d say yes, with a but (lol, I said “butt”). I’d see the second one first, if you didn’t like that, you won’t like this (but also, what the hell is wrong with you?), if you like it, you’ll like this. It has the same flaws and brilliance. I found my mini-review of it (before I started doing a review of every cinema film) in which I said this:

“Holy hell this was a lot of fun. I think I actually might prefer it to the original. Got some of the loudest and most consistent laughs from other people in the audience out of any film I’ve seen.

+The performances. All the main characters are basically avatars of other characters. So they have to be played the same way the original characters are (think the scene in Harry Potter where Hermione pretends to be Bellatrix, like that, throughout the entire film). Not the easiest thing to do, but they all do it really well. Jack Black, in particular, makes a fantastic teenage girl, and Karen Gillans “no idea how to flirt” scene was hilarious.

-The entire film you can’t escape the feeling that you miss Robin Williams”

Okay I was kind of wrong with “the performances” part. Yes, Jack Black and Karen Gillan were great, but Kevin Hart was just playing himself, and The Rock didn’t throw himself into it as much as you felt he could have. They completely fix that with this, you occasionally have to remember that that actually is The Rock, and he hasn’t actually been possessed by Danny DeVito. Same with Kevin Hart and Danny Glover; Kevin Hart completely nails Danny Glover’s mannerisms and demeanour.

The addition of DeVito and Glover to the cast takes some getting used to (there are moments where it feels like they’re stretching certain jokes out until they become unbearable), but they do end up (about a third of the way in) meshing into the dynamics of the film and wondering how the previous one managed without them.

Other than that, this film is basically the last one, again, but bigger. It’s just as funny, just as great to look at, and the music is really good (something I hadn’t noticed before was how good the score is). So yeah, I would recommend seeing it, seeing it in 3D isn’t completely necessary, and didn’t seem to make much of a difference, so just see it in 2D if you want. You won’t regret it, it’s funny, heartwarming, and has a REALLY subtle link to the first one, with a returning character who you might not even remember. The story isn’t great, and anybody who has ever seen a film will guess one of the “so that’s her powers” moments before it happens, and is so obvious I thought there was no way they would actually do it. Some character motivations aren’t entirely consistent and there are moments which are just done to forward the story. But it doesn’t matter, the film is fun enough to make you forget that. Plus it sets up a sequel beautifully, and a sequel you actually want to happen.

Killer Kate (2018)

I watched the trailer for this before seeing it (something I try to do now with films with bad reviews that I haven’t heard about, a policy I have started since Wolf). The trailer for this got me hyped, it looked kind of shlocky but fun. Plus, the film was under 90 minutes so I thought it won’t overstay its welcome. That goodwill was evaporated in the opening scene. It wasn’t badly shot, it was just weirdly shot in terms of the editing and shot choices. It wasn’t a great introduction to some of the characters, with some showing traits which they don’t show for the rest of the film. It’s understandable that they would be behaving in that way within the context of what they’re about to do (kill a group of people), but if you have that in the introduction to them it feels like it’s a character trait, so for that to not happen is a bit weird. It’s also strange that that’s how they start the film. The first thing we see in this film is a scene about the group of killers, and it stays with them for a good while, which makes it seem like they’re the focus of the story, like we’re following their arc and seeing how they’re going to come together to work as a team to kill people. The actual main characters are a group of young women on a pre-wedding getaway. Out of the four of them, only one of them is introduced to the audience before the fifteen-minute mark, which is about twenty percent of the film. That’s kind of a big issue with this film, the timing. For a lot of the film, it doesn’t seem like it knows how to use the time it has so just pads it out. It’s an 80-minute horror-comedy, those should be really easy to fill time for. As it is so much of this just feels like padding. There’s an almost 2-minute scene where we watch two characters flip through TV channels, they then get a joint out, this isn’t mentioned again in the film. I know two minutes isn’t that long really, but the film is full of minute-long scenes which could be done in seconds, and they all add up to a lot of wasted time. There is a scene after that which had a really baffling moment for me, and I’m not sure if it’s just me being picky. There was a noticeable gap between songs in the background music, and it coincided with a break in the conversation. So you went from lots of noise, to just complete silence for about three seconds. I had to quadruple-check that actually happened and it wasn’t just my laptop screwing up, because that was just a really strange choice. At least after that, the killers make an appearance in the house. This was at the 40-minute mark, again, of an 80-minute movie. That’s way too long, WAY too long for a film like this. Especially one which didn’t even really set up the characters that well in the first half.

Thankfully this is followed by a really smart moment, someone knocks at the front door whilst the women are hiding. They’re not sure if it’s the police, or maybe the killers trying to trick them. In the end, it’s a guy delivering the pizza they ordered earlier. That was a very smart piece of writing, it was set up, and was done long ago enough that you forgot about it when it happened. It made sense. Which is baffling why they then rush through another part. A character is seemingly poisoned and collapses, we think dead. Then about thirty seconds later they wake up when they hear a loud noise. Personally, I feel it would have been better if her “death” lasted longer, and she made a sudden appearance later to save someone at some point. As it is her “death” seems really inconsequential. Her waking up doesn’t have a big moment attached to it either, she just wakes up and rejoins the main characters (and the pizza guy) before running away to get killed by Tiffany Shepis’ character. I mention her by name as even though she is only in the film briefly, she is brilliant in it. Her performance is one of the highlights of the film, she carries herself as someone who knows exactly what the film requires of her performance. Which, to be completely honest, is more than can be said of some of the others. A lot of the performances are a little, I don’t know, one dimensional? This is a big problem, especially with the lead. It’s the first leading role in a feature for Alexandra Feld (who is also one of the producers and married to the director), and she doesn’t really carry it off. She remains stone-faced throughout the entire film and never really feels like anything other than a character in a movie. Part of that could be the writing though, a lot of the characters don’t have much depth to them, and the dialogue is VERY “written” and unnatural. On the subject of the writing, I feel I need to mention the pizza guy again. The main characters lock their phones in their car so they won’t be disturbed whilst they’re there, standard way to stop the audience asking “why don’t they just phone the police?”. But the pizza guy, he doesn’t lock his phone away. In fact, he specifically mentions he tried phoning them on his way there, so she has a mobile phone. He doesn’t use it. He doesn’t use it when he’s there, and he doesn’t use it once he runs away either. We know this as the film soon cuts to the next morning and the police aren’t there (but what is still there? The blood on Kate’s face, for some reason she didn’t feel the need to wash it all night). And “but they don’t know the address” would be bullshit, as the pizza place would have had it listed so it could get delivered. “But maybe he died on the way”, again, the pizza place would have followed that up, he had deliveries to make after this, and if he didn’t deliver any of them then the place would have had a lot of phone calls complaining, so the company would know he didn’t get there, whilst having a list of where he was supposed to be, to be checked out. I mean, I guess the guy could have just completed all his deliveries and just forget to mention it, that would be consistent for how the characters act in this movie.

The fun of a film like this can be the reveal of the motivation, and this COMPLETELY fucks it up. The motivation; someone wants to make Airbnb etc look bad so his hotel gets more bookings. Seriously, that’s it. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that when the news mentions the attacks at the Airbnb, they’re highly likely to mention who owned that one, and his face will be plastered everywhere too, so his motel will also be negatively affected. His motive rant is essentially “urgh, Millenials”. He then gets shot and dies easily, much like all the villains in this movie. That’s a huge problem, none of the bad guys really seem like threats. There are two who are kind of threatening, and they’re the first ones to die. So after that we have; a neurotic guy who is basically Ed Helms but not, a motel concierge who just stays on the phone, and the old guy. There’s no “final boss” so to speak of the film. No “oh, the characters are in major trouble now THEY’RE there”. No sense of escalation, it’s really frustrating.

On the plus side; with the exception of some of the gore, it looks great. The film language isn’t great but in terms of just the general look it’s pretty good. And the music choices are exceptional, bringing a faux-retro 80’s feel to the whole thing. Other than that? I am really disappointed with this, truly. Not scary enough to be a horror, and nowhere near funny enough to be a comedy. I really wanted this to be great, and it’s a real disappointment that I didn’t even find it good.

Ben Is Back (2018)

Damn you Cineworld. This film, for whatever reason, wasn’t shown at my local cinema. It’s weird, they had trailers for it, and posters up, but then didn’t show the actual film. It’s a shame as I really wish I saw this with other people. It’s a film that’s crying out for witnessing alongside people so you can see their emotional reaction. I really liked this film. I thought it would suffer from being very similar to Beautiful Boy. In reality, all it does is make Beautiful Boy look worse. It makes it seem slightly more selfish in comparison. I’m not saying it was selfish, but that film ended with details about the family the film is about, whilst this one ends with details for addiction centres to contact if you’re suffering too.

There’s one other moment where this film definitely wins out for me: when it shows us WHY the character is addicted to drugs. He got put on highly addictive pain medication by his doctor. This information is showcased in the best possible way; by having Julia Roberts approach the doctor who prescribed them saying they’re not addictive (and who is now suffering from dementia), and basically calls him an asshole. It’s a great scene, and it’s one which showcases an ugly truth that the world tries to hide; the role of prescription drugs in drug abuse. Drugs addicts are usually showcased as having their journey start with “they wanted to be cool so sparked up a marijuana doobie at the discotheque with their fellow cool cats” or “Their parents asked them to tidy their room so they rebelled by injecting heroin into their eyeballs”. This allows us to not care about drug users as we see them as junkies and losers, which makes it easier to dehumanise them and support policies which harshly punish them (and ironically driving them more towards drugs). This means that any form of funding for addiction centres is pushed against because “they’re just loser junkies, they shouldn’t get government help”, so that money instead gets spent on expensive bottles of whiskey for politicians (that’s not a joke btw, the houses of parliament has a fully taxpayer-funded bar which has led to at least one politician getting so drunk he couldn’t vote, which is his job. If I drank at work I’d be fired). This film shows HOW addiction can start, and how it can happen to literally anybody with the way the medical system is operated which decides to just throw pain pills at everything because things like physical therapy will take too long and doesn’t make drug companies any money.

I guess I should actually start talking about this film, right? Fine *sulks*. I’m starting to really like Julia Roberts. I didn’t at first as I saw her as emblematic of what I dislike about Hollywood, style over substance with really bland stories which just play it safe, over sanitised films you feel you’ve seen before you’ve seen them because of how formulaic they are. Those films don’t allow you to see much performance as a lot of the characters are flat and don’t get to showcase much genuine emotion. Lately, she’s been in some films that show how talented she really is. Her performance helped to anchor Money Monster (which is a real forgotten gem), and she is BRILLIANT in the remake of Secret In Their Eyes. Her great run continues in this. Her anger, pain, and the emotional frailty this situation is giving her are all over her character and she performs them perfectly. Lucas Hedges also continues to show that he is really f*cking good. He’s in a weird position as he’s been critically acclaimed, yet hasn’t yet gone into full mainstream where you can use his name to sell a film to a casual audience. I feel he’s nearly there though. He’s just one film away from fully breaking through, and when he does it’s going to be magnificent. He has a great future ahead of him, and I look forward to it.

So yeah, if you get a chance to watch this, you have to see it. It’s that damn good. It’s emotionally devastating and beautifully ugly.

Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)

Film reviews are a weird concept. Not entirely similar to film criticism, yet it can’t be entirely different. You can write hundreds of words reviewing a film, yet they really only need a question and a one-word answer: Should I watch this movie? yes/no. That’s all it boils down to. And with this, the answer is yes, with a but. If you liked the first one (as I did, I loved it in fact. One of my favourite zombie movies), you’ll like this, if you disliked it, this won’t change your mind on the franchise. It has some issues of course. The Abigail Breslin sub-plot is essential to the progression of the film, in fact, it’s pretty essential to everything in the film happening, but that doesn’t mean it’s exciting. The dullest parts are the film are when it’s focusing on her story arc. I’m not sure why, I think it’s because out of all the new characters introduced, the one in that section is the most boring. Not only because he’s a pacifist (this film is known for having great zombie deaths, and his pacifism pretty much tells you that is not going to happen in his moments) but also because it’s sorely underdeveloped. You don’t get much information on how he’s managed to survive this long, whether he’s always been like that or not. There could have been a really interesting back story where he was happily killing zombies and in a moment of madness killed someone who it turned out wasn’t a zombie. That would have solved the issue of not having any kills and it would have made the character more compelling.

Another issue is at times it feels like the characters are still getting to know each other, the character relationships don’t feel like they’ve all been together for 10 years. There’s almost zero development from the end of the last film to the beginning of this one. Nothing has happened off-screen in terms of how they treat each other, and it’s a bit weird and makes you realise these aren’t real people, they’re characters in a movie.

There’s a moment at the start where they introduce three new kinds of zombies (Ninjas, Homers, and Hawkings), these classifications don’t end up meaning much in the end and are really only there to set up another classification later in the film. We get a few Homers (really stupid zombies) in the film, but I feel we don’t get enough Hawkings (very smart ones) or Ninjas (silent and quick). That could have been used to set up some good horror scenes, and it’s a shame that it feels like they didn’t really use them.

Now onto the plus side; the chemistry between the cast is still great and is a great example of a studio taking advantage of catching lightning in a bottle in terms of actors. When you have something like that it can be a mistake to bring a new person in. It’s why I was slightly concerned with how heavily featured Zoey Deutch was in the trailers, especially as her character seemed pretty one-note and like her main reason to exist was to drive the plot forward by putting them in danger with her stupidity. Thankfully she slots in beautifully. Plus she’s not stupid, not really. She would have been 14 when the zombie outbreak occurred, so most of her formative years were spent hiding in a freezer. As such she’s stuck in a state of arrested development alongside long-term isolation (the film hints that she was at the same place the infection started, so she has been in the same place, alone, for 10 years). Her character meshes well with the other characters too, allowing them to get some great comedic lines in. Rosario Dawson also slots in brilliantly, albeit for nowhere near as long.

So to answer the question about whether you should see it, you definitely should. It’s exactly what you think it is, and exactly what it needs to be. It even features an opening scene set to Metallica like the first one. Now if another one is made, lets hope it’s not 10 years later again. Oh, and make sure you stay for the mid-credits scene where Bill Murray kills zombies whilst just walking around being Bill Murray.

Joker (2019)

To say this film had a lot of buzz is an understatement. I mean, IT: Chapter Two had a lot of hype, but absolutely nothing compared to this. The closest I’ve seen this year was Avengers, and that had over a decade of build-up. Expectations were very high for this, and it kind of met them. That’s mainly due to two things:

  1. The general tone. Particularly at the end of the film. This is a Gotham that makes sense to exist. In previous films, Gotham has just seemed like a normal town, albeit with organised crime. This Gotham seems hopeless like the whole place is just sinking, spiralling down to oblivion. The architecture is run down, there’s no sense of “wow” to it. You won’t get this Gotham as a lego set, it’s just too horrible. It’s a cesspool of filth that needs cleaning, this is a Gotham that NEEDS someone like Batman.
  2. Joaquin Phoenix. He’s phenomenal in this. Physically he’s just perfect. At times he seems to contort his body into an almost inhuman shape, like his body is a cocoon he is trying to escape from.

You come out of this film exhausted. It’s the film equivalent of having your face scraped along a road, albeit a really smooth and polished road. There is a roughness to this film, but it’s a slick roughness, like those guys who spend hours getting their hair elegantly dishevelled. I think one of the biggest issues I have with it is that it’s kind of predictable. There’s not much that will surprise you, everything happens as you expect it would. For something like this I feel it needs to subvert expectations in some way, and except for “this is dark and realistic” this doesn’t really do that. We’ve all seen this movie and story before, so even when it is at it’s best, it doesn’t feel unique enough to stand out among the crowd. In particular, the death of the Waynes feels so familiar it’s a weirdly dull moment to put that close to the end of the film.

The absolute worst thing about this movie? There’s one scene where he dances down some stairs alongside a Gary Glitter song. That’s convicted paedophile Gary Glitter, on the soundtrack to a major movie in 2019. You’d think someone who worked on the film would have pointed that out. It’s a moment that completely takes you out of the film as it’s impossible to hear one of his songs and not feel really creeped out.

There was a worry that this film would serve as an inspiration for assholes. That a large amount of disaffected white men (and lets face it, it would be white guys) would see this movie and think “yes, the world also mistreats me, I held a door open for a woman earlier and she didn’t even offer me sex. I’m going to kill people, I’m a hero”. Considering this film is about the character inspiring a movement, these fears weren’t completely unfounded. After seeing this film I think it’s less likely to be the case, purely because of how utterly pathetic the character is at times. He’s shown to be terrible with people, not that smart, not charismatic as himself, and not funny. Anybody who would see this as a role model is beyond hope in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong, you do feel sympathy for the character, he is mistreated by a lot of people, and the healthcare system in general. The turning point is when he’s beaten by three suited asswipes. He shoots two of them in self-defence, then hunts the third one down and executes him in cold blood. It’s at this point he goes from “oh no, poor guy” to “oh, he’s an asshole” and it is superbly done. A lot of the deaths in here are really good actually, there’s one in particular which is so brutal it’s incredibly uncomfortable, in a good way. The moment where he shoots someone on live television didn’t really work as well for me. I get what they were going for but I think it would have been more effective if we saw more people watching the broadcast to really hit home what’s happening. We get the reaction of the studio audience, but that’s pretty much it. The chaos that follows that scene is so intense it gives you a sense of dread for society in general, so that’s good. Now, the closing scene, it feels a bit too “arty” and “this is deep” to be an effective closer. It kind of works but I feel could and should have been better.

So in summary, you DEFINITELY should see this film. You may not enjoy it, but you will like it. It’s intense, exhilarating, and features one of the best performances you’ll see in a long time. It’s not a “greatest movie ever” film, but it’s definitely going to be a highlight of the year.

The Kitchen (2019)

I was quite excited by this, it seemed like an interesting an fresh story (albeit one based on a comic book series so not entirely original) starring Melissa McCarthy in a not “I’m fat and swear a lot, this is comedy” role. It seemed like an interesting idea. So I was kind of disappointed with the final product. The whole thing seems like a bunch of wasted opportunities. It does have to be said how good the central performances are though; McCarthy is great in it, as is Tiffany Haddish, and Elisabeth Moss, my favourite performance though is Domhnall Gleeson, who is quietly building up a REALLY solid filmography in terms of performance; Brooklyn, Ex Machina, Star Wars etc. His performance in this is kind of terrifying in a great way, he seems like a cold-blooded killer. The cast does lead me to one of the big issues with this film; there are too many bland characters. There are people who you are supposed to recognise so you can be like “Wow, I can’t believe their relative did that”, but you don’t recognise them so it just seems like someone did something and you don’t get the importance of it until it’s revealed by dialogue later on. I think part of this is because it builds up characters as important threats, and then just kills them without fanfare. This means all that time spent developing that character feels kind of wasted. The twist near the end also doesn’t seem to land. I think the reason for that is because it’s supposed to be a big deal, but happens so close to the end that the ramifications of it never hit home, especially since about 4 minutes after the “big betrayal” there’s a “we need to put aside our differences and work together” scene which ends the film. So really it had no impact on the plot at all. I’m interested to read the comic this is based on, just to see if it makes the same mistakes.

I guess my big problem is I found it hard to give a shit about it. Especially once Elisabeth Moss’s character died, I found myself not really rooting for the main characters. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t rooting against them, I just wasn’t rooting for them; I flat out didn’t care about them. This review is shorter than normal, usually when I don’t like a film I can find a lot to talk about, I’ll use the issues I have with the film to kickstart a rant about something, I can’t work up the energy to do that with this. It’s left almost no impact on me at all. To the point where in a few years I’ll see a trailer for this this somewhere, and completely forget I’ve already watched it.

Still, Margo Martindale is awesome in it.

Ad Astra (2019)

This was the perfect movie for me at this time, it’s just what I needed. The last film I watched was so bad it almost put me off the concept of film, and the concept of enjoying things. This film put me back on track. It’s glorious as fuck. It looks magnificent, there’s not even a single second where you don’t buy into everything you watch on screen. I was sold in the opening scene when a space station blew up and people plummeted to earth (horrific way to die when you think about it by the way) and the way it looked meant this scene which could just look like a standard action scene, instead looked as terrifying as it would be in real life. Really, think of how that scene would play out in most films; it would be loud, lots of screaming, but you won’t feel anything. You’d be very aware you’re watching a movie and that there is no suffering on screen. This is the opposite, you feel everything that happens.

It’s not just the visuals, the sound work is great too. Well not just the sound, the use of silence too. Far too many films are scared of silence or don’t utilise it properly. When it’s used effectively it’s one of the best tricks in a filmmakers arsenal. This is doubly so in two specific genres; horror and sci-fi. The sound of silence can really help drive home isolation and nothingness. We’re so used to some form of background noise that complete silence is incredibly unnerving to experience, in a good way.

Now onto the bad; I felt this movie was lacking emotional depth. There’s a moment at the end which is supposed to be a huge emotional moment but for whatever reason, it didn’t really hit home. I think it might be because the entire film was building towards something happening, and then it did happen it wasn’t executed very well and just seemed kind of bland. Also, the narration was unnecessary.

There were also a few moments where it dragged slightly. Not as much as you’d think though. It’s a long film, and A LOT of the film is just padding, but it kind of works as these are the moments where the film breaths and truly comes into its own. Some of the wasteful scenes do highlight another problem with this film; disposable side characters. Brad Pitt’s character is undoubtedly the main character, but that would be a weird film to watch for two hours, so the film brings in side characters for very brief moments. Sometimes they just tell him “your dad killed my parents” and then help him on his way, sometimes they worked with his dad years before they had an argument and stopped talking, and sometimes they want him to detonate a bomb on a planet to kill his dad. Either way, these characters all only appear for a few minutes and then are never referred to again. Also, it’s kind of weird how his entire character is his dad, even in terms of how other people relate to him. Look at all those characters I just described, they’re all focused around his dad, not him. As such he doesn’t really get chance to develop much of a character, I realise that could be the point to show how we live in the shadow of the sins of those that came before us, but the character spends most of the film on his own, it’s important he is well defined and this just about doesn’t manage it.

So in summary, see this, and see it a cinema, it’s what it deserves. This film is crying out for a big screen and immersive experience. And it’s great to see Tommy Lee Jones and Donald Sutherland again. Side note; Donald Sutherland would be a great voice for an animated movie.

IT: Chapter 2 (2019)

Is this the best horror movie of the year? Well it’s definitely better than Ma and Escape Room, and scarier than Happy Death Day 2 U and Child’s Play. The only one that can really match it is Us, which I loved. I think this Us is better, but only marginally. It’s not so much what this film is lacking which brings it down, it’s what it contains; far too much. This film is far, far too long. It’s almost 3 hours long and doesn’t need to be. There’s a lot of padding, a lot of repeating what we already know, and a lot of things that don’t go anywhere. Not just scenes, there are entire sub-plots which aren’t really necessary. Yes, it was good to see Henry Bowers as a psychopathic adult, but it barely adds anything to the plot and if you cut it out it wouldn’t really affect the plot. He may have been important in the book, but they’ve changed over things, and he was so ineffectual that I don’t think anybody would have really missed him. The opening is also a waste of time, if I’m being honest. It’s about two gay characters being attacked by a homophobic gang, ending in one of the two being thrown off a bridge where his partner witnessed him being attacked by Pennywise. It looks like the gang of homophobic assholes are going to be a big fixture in this film, like Bowers was in the first film, but they never appear again. Also not appearing again; the surviving character. He witnesses his partner being eaten by Pennywise, and is never seen again in the film. He could have been an important part, an outsider in the Losers club.

Despite the excessive runtime, there are a lot of things that are underutilised, one of which is Pennywise himself. There is also a problem with consistency, you’re not quite sure whether things are real or illusions, so you don’t know whether things have consequences, and it’s arguable about whether the film itself even knows. It also features possibly one of the most embarassing scenes in 2019 horror when a really tense moment suddenly has a really out-of-place use of the song “Angel Of The Morning” in a way that I think was supposed to be comedic, but it didn’t really work at all as it was the coda of a really intense section.

Arguably, I think this film would have been better as a trilogy. The first one as the younger characters, the second one as the older, and the third switching between the two (or switch the third and second one). There’s too much story to tell so you can’t do it all in this period of time. For this to have worked they would have needed to make all 3 at the same time, which would be fine. It also would have cut down on the flashbacks in this movie, which threaten to overrule the story. It’s hard for a lot of the flashback scenes to work that effectively because they lack tension. The reason for this is because we know the characters survive as we’ve seen the older versions of them, so we know that no matter what, nothing too bad will happen.

Despite that, despite ALL that, I did really enjoy this film. When it was creepy it was incredibly unsettling, and when it was funny it was very funny (with two notable exceptions). The performances are also great, McAvoy continues to be one of the best performers in every movie he’s in, all the cast from the first movie continue to be great too. The real MVP though; Bill Hader. I didn’t know he had this performance in him, he nails every aspect of the character. His jokes, his guilt, and his insecurity are played perfectly by him.

It does also feature a semi-distracting Stephen King cameo though. Although that cameo does consist of him telling a character who is clearly based on him “I like your books but your endings suck”, which made me laugh. So yeah, definitely go see this, preferably at the cinema for the best experience.