2022 In Film: Day Seven (The Good)

Black Adam

Ups: One of the stronger DC films of last few years.

Genuinely surprising twist.

Is nice to see a big budget super hero film without a white protaganist.

Has genuine emotion.

Downs: Underwritten villain.

Generic plot

Needs to be more violent.

Doesn’t explain some characters well enough.

Best Moment: The reveal. Has actual emotion and explains so much of what happened before.

Worst Moment: The final battle is a bit underwhelming.

Best Performer: Noah Centino. He has to be good otherwise the character would seem like a Deadpool/Ant-Man rip-off.

Opening: Flashback to 2600BC. Not a terrible way to start the film, slightly too over-stylized, but gets the job done. It does explain it all much quicker than similar films, so props for that.

Closing: Going to go with the post-credits scene here. Superman turns up, in Henry Cavill’s last performance in the role. I don’t think anything will happen with that now so seems a bit of a waste.

Best Line: “Tell them the man in black sent you.”, just before Black Adam rips someone in half. Needed more of that.

Original Review here

Catch The Fair One

Ups: Script is very good at realising the darkness in humanity.

Says a lot about how kidnapping is treated by people, especially when it happens to non-white people.

Downs: You might find it a bit too bleak, to be expected given the subject matter.

Best Moment: The kidnapping. Only because it’s so naturally done. There’s no dramatic music leading up to it. It’s unexpected and shocking. There’s a lot of choices in this though; the missing persons group was also up there for being chosen

Worst Moment: Going to be a bit weird, but I’m chosing an argument between the main character and her mother. It’s REALLY good, but it’s not followed up on. If they followed it up, this would be a difficult section because there are no weak scenes. But with a scene THAT good being worthless, feels like a waste.

Best Performer: Kali Reis

Opening: Training for a boxing match. The sparring session is done as a 30-second one-take that highlights how physically impressive a performer she is. That’s to be expected though, as she is a boxer. It has a weirdly haunting score too. So far, so good, but standard. Then she wakes up and you notice there’s blood on the bed. Something so simple yet added so much.

Closing: Dream sequence. I get why, it’s the only way the film could get a narrative sense of closure, and it is realistic that these stories don’t have happy endings, but fucking hell. Also a wasted opportunity, providing websites and information in the closing credits could have been useful.

Best Line: “Fuck this I’m sorry”. I know, on its own it’s not great. But as a response to “if you’re daughter was still here, what would you say to her?”. That sentence, said by a quite muscly MAN, who then storms out. Says so much about fatherhood, masculinity, and grief.

Original Review here

Death On The Nile

Ups: A fun well-crafted murder mystery that wrongfoots you constantly and makes you feel like an idiot for not getting it.

Downs: Some of the CGI is a bit weak.

Gal Gadot has terrible line delivery at times.

Arnie Hammer

Best Moment: The reveal. A story like this lives and dies by the ending. This gets it right and delivers it with great tension.

Worst Moment: The moment where one of the bodies is found could be done a little better.

Best Performer: Kenneth Branagh, obviously.

Opening: Poirot at war. Showing how he used his deductive skills to help his squadron advance. Mainly there to show his human side, and explain his moustache. But it hints at something I now want: Poirot before he was a detective, using his skills in other situations.

Closing: Poirot sitting at a jazz club, sans moustache (as in, without moustache, that’s not the name of the club). Provides a bit of breathing space at the end, but otherwise is just a bit meh.

Best Line: “oh he accuses everyone of murder” “it’s a problem, I admit”

Original Review here

Emily

Ups: Ambitiously directed by Frances O Connor (she has a great future if she gets the right films).

Beautifully shot.

Brings a long-past time to life in an effective way.

Downs: The romance doesn’t quite work.

Quite dull for some of the opening.

The visual language is unclear for parts of it.

Best Moment: When the brother turns up. Mainly because the way Emily reacts to him makes her seem better as a person.

Worst Moment: The drunken conversation. Mainly because it’s weirdly edited.

Best Performer: Emma Mackay.

Opening: Emily is on her death bed and is asked what made her want to write. Yes, it’s a “how we got here” framing device. *sigh*

Closing: She dies. As you can tell from the opening. Would have been nice to have more information about her during the credits.

Best Line: Everyone’s strange if you look at them for long enough.

Original Review here

Midnight

Ups: The relationship between the two women is delightful. They have great physical chemistry that helps sell the family relationship between them.

Great shots.

Very funny at times.

Downs: A few shots could be a bit clearer.

Best Moment: A quick moment of Kim Kyung-mi in her job, dealing with an angry swearing (via sign language) woman. In response she simply raises her middle finger. Brilliant comedic timing and she does it so well. Weird to pick a comedic moment in a film like this I know.

Worst Moment: The opening murder could look a bit better. It’s fine going back to watch it, but on original watch it can be a bit difficult to place everybody.

Best Performer: Jin Ki-Joo

Opening: A woman misses a taxi and decides to walk home, but she gets murdered on the way. Tense way to open it, and the lighting is superb. Also sets up the killer as a manipulative bastard. It then goes into Kim Kyung-mi doing customer support via sign language, which is a weirdly comedic scene.

Closing: Characters sitting on a beach. It’s a nice coda to an earlier conversation. It’s not necessary, but it’s a really nice closer and means you end the film with a little bit of hope.

Best Line: Going to include a non-verbal one, the middle finger.

Original review here

Mr. Malcolm’s List

Ups: It’s nice to see a new period piece.

Well developed characters.

Funny.

Much smarter than similar films.

Emma Holly Jones could be a director to keep an eye on in the next few years. Great potential

Charming.

Downs: Not really very original.

Forgettable.

Best Moment: When the titular Mr. Malcolm is forced to defend his list. He makes a great point that he shouldn’t be criticised for daring to actually want to enjoy the company of the person expected to be his wife.

Worst Moment: Ending is a little cliche.

Best Performer: Freida Pinto, but Sope Dirisu is up there.

Opening: Julia goes on a date to the opera. It’s awkward as hell. Good way to start the film, and really wrongfoots you with Mr. Malcom’s personality.

Closing: They end up together. Obviously.

Best Line: “Love cannot be planned so carefully, my dear. It will stir things up a bit. That is part of its charm”

Original Review here

Nightmare Alley

Ups: It looks fantastic.

Tremendous performances.

Compelling story.

Downs: Music could be better.

Slightly misleading marketing.

Best Moment: Clem explains how he lures the geeks in. Lets you know how horrific the world really is, and it pays off beautifully.

Worst Moment: The murder/suicide doesn’t hit quite as it needs to.

Best Performer: Bradley Cooper. Normally not too impressed with him, but he’s great in this.

Opening: The lead burns a house down after putting a body under the floorboards. Great opening as it means you are instantly asking questions that you want answers to. You’re drawn in and want to watch.

Closing: He gets offered a job as a geek. “just a temporary job, as a fake one”. After his conversation earlier he knows what’s happening, and all he can do is accept it.

Best Line: “Find out what they’re afraid of and sell it back to them.”

Original Review here

Spirited

Ups: Fun.

Goes by quickly.

Downs: Ryan Reynolds character doesn’t seem evil enough.

A lot of the songs aren’t memorable enough.

Best Moment: The Good Afternoon song

Worst Moment: A child commits suicide. Don’t get me wrong, I think that was a narrative masterstroke, but it will annoy some people.

Best Performer: Ryan Reynolds

Opening: A woman apologising to the ghost of Christmas yet to come for her misdeeds. Already shows it’s interesting and new. Personally, I would have held off the reveal a few minutes more, if it was played straight for a few minutes then the reveal would have had a bigger impact. Props for being able to put that much sentimentality into a 5-minute sequence though.

Closing: The spirits now work other holidays too. Scrooge is back alive and married with kids.

Best Line: “He’s like the perfect combination of Mussolini and Seacrest.”

Original review here

The Lost City

Ups: Funny.

Well-crafted action scenes.

Radcliffe is having a blast.

Flies by much quicker than you’d expect.

Downs: Incredibly predictable.

Never gets better than “entertaining”

Best Moment: Someone getting shot in the head. Funny, and one of the few surprises in the script.

Worst Moment: “the real treasure was love”.

Best Performer: Channing Tatum.

Opening: Imaginary scene set in a book. Very fun, and sets the tone. Also makes good jokes about the fantasy romance action genre as a whole.

Closing: The two are together. Shockingly predictable.

Best Line: “I’m a woman; I can’t mansplain anything.” ” Uh, I’m a feminist, and I think a woman can do anything a man can do.”

Original Review here

White Building

Ups: There are some beautiful looking shots.

The tonal shift is well-earned.

Downs: One of the characters just leaves the film halfway through.

Quite dull at times.

Could do a better job of telling the audience the importance of the building.

Best Moment: The three friends trying to chat up three girls on an adjacent vehicle. Despite the fact it’s all taking place on two scooters it’s strangely normal. It’s just a group of guys trying (and failing) to impress a group. But it’s so genuine, the girls reactions are so cruel, and the guys are so desperate.

Worst Moment: A diseased foot. I was eating dinner at the time I was watching it, gross.

Best Performer: Chinnaro Soem. He’s not technically the best actor in the movie, he’s only really in the first half, but his undeniable charisma and the way he carries himself, he has undeniable star quality.

Opening: Aerial shots of buildings. It looks weirdly beautiful in a horrible way. The buildings are in a state of obvious need of repair, like the before in a stage of House Flipper (great game btw). Sets up the living standards well. It’s so quiet and weirdly peaceful too. Then we get two friends talking. Weird choice as the story is about three friends, but the fact we’re introduced to two of them,

Closing: The building is being knocked down. Seems to be genuine footage from the time. No music, done almost silently. The manner in which it’s shot, and the eerie stillness to the whole thing, bring to mind an execution. We then see the lead just sitting outside in the evening, soaking in the silence. Personally, I’d have stopped on the demolition, but I can see why they would go with the personal ending.

Best Line: “one day they turned up with trucks and guns, so those people didn’t get a penny for their house”. Explains so much. Not just about why people would accept selling their house to the government when they’re clearly not getting enough money for them. But also why people are acting the way they do, the government just doing that and everybody skipping over it says a lot about the town, and the fear they must have that something so horrific can be discussed so casually.

Original Review here

You Are Not My Mother

Ups: Kate Dolan is a hell of a director.

Shot like a drama, which makes the horror seem more realistic.

Gripping.

Downs: Writes itself into a corner where it opens doors it can’t close without disrupting the narrative.

Could be a bit slow for some people.

Best Moment: The dance scene. It’s got a really weird energy. It’s elegant and beautiful, but in a very aggressive way. And then an ankle breaks

Worst Moment: Some of the school scenes don’t work.

Best Performer: Carolyn Bracken. Almost entirely for the dance scene.

Opening: A baby in a pram in the middle of street in darkness. Such a simple but effective way to open the film. The baby is then taken to the woods by its grandmother, who lights a ring of fire around her. Instantly gets you asking questions.

Closing: The Mother is back, this time with a lucky token to keep her safe. A somewhat abrupt ending

Original Review here

The Adam Project (2022)

Quick synopsis: After accidentally crash-landing in 2022, time-traveling fighter pilot Adam Reed teams up with his 12-year-old self for a mission to save the future.

Ryan Reynolds and Netflix Originals don’t have the best reputations. Red Notice was thoroughly mediocre, and when I mentioned I was watching 6 Underground, the reaction I got from people on Twitter was one of sympathy. This should be better though, directed by Shawn Levy, who made Free Guy, which was a lot of fun. So this could be awful, or it could be brilliant, either way, it wouldn’t surprise me. So is it worth watching? Kind of. I mean, it’s good, but it’s “streaming good”. By which I mean, it’s good, but not good enough that you want to make an effort. If you had to go to the cinema to watch it, or pay to stream it, you’d be very disappointed. But since it’s on netflix, you’re not paying for this individual film, so you have no financial investment in watching this. That’s for the best as it’s only ever a 7/10. I watched it about a week ago and still can’t remember that much from it.

That’s not to say it’s bad. It’s very funny at times, and whoever decided to cast Walker Scobell as a younger Ryan Reynolds? Give that man a raise. It’s one of the most perfect child castings I’ve seen in a long time, not so much visually, but Scobell absolutely NAILS the mannerisms where even if you weren’t told he was a younger version of Reynolds’ character, you’d know it. Reynolds does his usual, which is all he needs to do in a film like this. I am a massive fan of him but I will freely admit he doesn’t always pick the best films. But when a film he’s in is bad, it’s never because of him. Jennifer Garner and Zoe Saldana feel too inconsequential in this to comment on. It’s strange as they both play characters who have the potential to add a lot of emotion; the main character’s partner, who was declared dead so it’s the first time he’s seen her in years, and his mother, who he regrets being rude to whilst she was alive. Both of those have massive potential to be heartbreaking, but they are underdeveloped by the story. Jennifer Garner, especially, seems to disappear from the film after a short while, only meeting her future son once, and not really having too in-depth a conversation with them. Catherine Keener is her usual delightful self, she’s going through a real purple patch in terms of roles, and this continues that run, I’m now at the point where I can tell the difference between her Mary Steenburgen, and Kathryn Hahn which considering that in reality they look absolutely nothing alike, isn’t worth bragging about. Again, she should be given more to do. She’s also unfortunate that she is subject to CGI de-aging technology, and it doesn’t quite look right. Wouldn’t it have been easier to age up future-her with make-up rather than de-age with CGI? Probably cheaper too. Feels like they CGI de-aged just because they could, not caring if they could do it well.

The plot? Well, there’s nothing in here that will surprise you. It’s not exactly a film that you’ll struggle to follow, no matter how drunk you are. Time travel stories lend themselves well to narrative trickery and weirdness, and it never really happens in this. It never goes beyond the surface level. That’s fine, not all movies need to be EEAAO, but it is frustrating to see potential wasted like this. This could be fantastic, but it never does anything to stand out. The visuals are only okay, the story is basic, and I can’t even remember the music. Compared to how music is used in similar films like Back To The Future, where certain songs are now impossible to separate from the film, this has nothing. Well, I say nothing, there’s a scene near the end which is damn near perfect. If the rest of the film was as good as that, it would be among the best of the year, as it is, I can already forget I’ve seen it.

Spirited (2022)

Quick synopsis: A musical version of Charles Dickens’ story of a miserly misanthrope who’s taken on a magical journey.

It can’t have escaped your attention that there are quite a few streaming services available, and they all need a hook to justify their own existence. Netflix has Stranger Things (and good branding), Amazon Prime has more recent movies (and the ability to add digital purchases to it), Shudder has horror (and also a shocking customer service team, but that’s a story for another time), Mubi has an extensive range of foreign-language cinema and independent films (as well as a sending you a notification when a film on your list is leaving), whereas AppleTV+ has…………yeah I’m not sure. I’m currently on a free trial of it, and it has a select few things, but nothing that makes me think it’s going to be worth paying for while the trial ends. It is aiming big though, and this film is an example of this. You don’t hire Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell if you’re not aiming for mass-market appeal.

I’m not really sure this is going to be the film to break Apple into the next level. I mean, it’s funny, and it is good at what it does. But it’s not essential. It also hasn’t really been advertised much, a film like this needs to be unavoidable to the point of being annoying. If this has any hope of becoming a Christmas cult classic, it needs to be everywhere, it needs an audience. It also needs to be fun.

It at least achieves that. It’s almost two hours long, but doesn’t feel it. That’s helped by the music being very good. Music is a big part of Christmas films, think of how much the music improves Home Alone or The Muppets Christmas Carol. This is a musical, so obviously the songs are even more important. I can only remember one song from it. I try to remember more and all I get is the one from Community. Outside of a few songs I can’t see listening to the soundtrack in full, you can probably cut all of the songs from here and it wouldn’t affect the story that much. It makes it feel like the script was written, and then the songs were handled separately and inserted randomly, and nobody likes random insertions (citation needed). I get why this film is a musical, Christmas films have a higher allowance for joy and music than others. But it doesn’t really work for me, I think part of that might be because, let’s be honest, Will Ferrell isn’t a great singer. At least they have a logical reason for it to be a musical. Apparently the afterlife is a musical, so whilst heaven isn’t clarified as existing, hell does.The script could be improved too. There’s nothing inherently bad are embarassing about it, but moments could be better. Ryan Reynolds establishing character moment should be better. The movie talks about him being irredeemable, but doesn’t show it. He has moments of heartlessness, but not enough. Yes, he lies, manipulates, and stokes fear/division, but that doesn’t make him the worst person in the world, it just makes him someone involved in sales.

On the plus side, this film does have the suicide of a child in it. I didn’t think it would include that, but it does. So that shows that it’s not afraid to get dark and disturbing when it needs to, so if they did that at the start it would make his character arc more effective. I appreciate it taking a new angle on the cliche Christmas Carol plot. It approaches it in a way that works, and makes sense in-universe if you don’t think about it too much. I like a fresh take on something I’ve seen before as it makes it easy to compare and notice the strengths. The strengths are that it’s funny, has some great scenes (the opening is the best way for this film to open), and is unique.

But that also highlights the weaknesses. The biggest weakness being, of course, that it’s a comedic musical film based on Christmas Carol, and the best one possible was already made in 1992. You can’t be better than that, and it’s just not different enough to work.

Red Notice (2021)

Quick Synopsis: An interpol agent attempts to track down a jewel thief. In reality it’s much much more complicated than that.

Disposable. That is probably the best way to describe this. Don’t get me wrong, at no point while watching this will you be bored, you will be thoroughly entertained throughout, and if a sequel came out you will watch it. But will you NEED to see this film again? Probably not. It’s good at what it does, but you’ve already seen everything it does before, it brings nothing new to the table. Ryan Reynolds does his usual shtick, and gets partnered with a violent stronger person who he initially disagrees with and you wonder if they can trust each other before true friendship wins. Blah blah. I’ve seen it all before. It has the usual twist and turns and they are surprising, but again, they’re not new.

The film can’t even rely on the action scenes to carry it through. They’re too video-gamey. You know how back in the days of Tony Hawk’s games the levels used to be designed in a way to be skateable, so the fences and rails would all be placed in a way that was designed with the video game playability in mind first before realism, that’s how this feels. It’s like the world was designed in such a way for action set pieces, so there’s no sense of realism or weight to the scenes, which robs them of any tension. Although let’s face it, you’re not going to get much tension in a film starring Ryan Reynolds and The Rock anyway as you know that the studio is aiming for a franchise, so they’re going to keep both alive.

It has some good parts. It’s very funny. The story has more twists and turns than a roller coaster, and Gal Gadot is funnier than she’s ever been (outside of her Imagine video obviously).

It’s hard to feel too disappointed, but it’s also hard to feel too pleased. It’s hard to feel anything. It’s popcorn movie. Sometimes that’s all you need, sometimes that’s all you want. It’s going to be a success, but I don’t think it will be anybody’s favourite film.

Free Guy (2021)

Quick Synopsis: Guy (Ryan Reynolds) is a NPC character in Free City (an open-world GTA-like game) who becomes self aware and has to save his world with the help of programmers Millie and Keys (Jodie Comer and Joe Keery)

I had no idea what to expect from this. I say that a lot but I never mean it more literally than I do here, I went to a secret screening at local Cineworld which meant I had no idea what film I was about to see. Truth be told I thought there was a good chance it would be this, and I was hoping I’d be right as I’ve been looking forward to this since the first time I saw the trailer. I’m glad it was this as it’s a really good film, and one I think people will like.

It’s not going to change the world, and it’s not the best film of the year. But it’s better than it should be. It goes a bit further than just pure escapism and at times is genuinely moving. This could have got away with just being dumb fun but the fact it is willing to go beyond that is testament to the work the creators put in.

Turns out a lot of that is due to the non-video game parts. Usually those would be the weakest parts of a movie like this. The boring human parts. But they actually work in this. It helps that Comer is incredible. You probably know her from Killing Eve, but I’ve never watched that so to me everything about her was new and I loved it. Keery was pretty good too, bringing the same neurosis and weirdness he had in Spree. I had no idea there was any non-video game parts in it at all, possibly I’m an idiot. The way they integrate the two plots is really well done too. Plus it’s a logical thing to do really. You need some humanity in it, and if the only notable thing about Guy is that he has traces of humanity, then you can’t just depend on other video game characters to provide that. It also provides the film with the best of the two endings.

Yup, it has two endings. Well it has two worlds, so both worlds need closure. It’s here where we have quite a big misstep, it goes with the wrong one. The real world ending should have been the one, the video game one didn’t have the right emotional nuance to end the film on. I mean, it was nice and warm and funny, but personally I preferred the other one.

Might have something to do with how I didn’t really gel with Lil Rey Howery for some reason. I usually like him in stuff I see him in too which is weird. I genuinely think he was better in Space Jam 2 than he was in this, he was definitely better in Uncle Drew, where he gave his character warmth and humour. In this he comes off just a little bit too “Guy at an improv show desperate for attention”. Reynolds seems to take a while to find his character too. When he develops the personality he’s fine, but in his early “just a video game character” characterisation he doesn’t really suit it. Thankfully that’s only for about ten minutes so it’s not too big an issue.

So in summary it’s not the greatest movie, but it is incredibly fun, and goes deeper than a film like this should be. It’s not a film I NEED to see again, but it is a film I definitely will see again, it’s just so damn good. Funny, smart, has heart, and has a lot of fun cameos. And it has the best posters

The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (2021)

I have to get this out the way before I start: that is in the running for the worst title for a cinematic release this year. It’s clunky as hell and doesn’t flow off the tongue when you say it. Seriously, say it out loud right now. It just doesn’t feel right. Also it’s not really relevant as the bodyguard is no more protecting the wife than he was in the first one. A simple “The Hitman’s Bodyguard 2” would have worked better and made it easier to talk about.

Right, that weird thing over here, let’s move on. This film has had a lot of negative reviews, with an average rating of 4.4/10. That seems too low. Yeah the plot is, well it’s not great. There are some moments which are just stupid. And there are some things which just happen for the sake of plot. But it’s also really damn funny. Had some of the most laugh out loud moments I’ve seen in a film so far this year (definitely the funniest I’ve seen at the cinema. I know, it is truly shocking that this film is funnier than one about Anthony Hopkins having dementia).

So how does it look? Mostly okay. There are a few action scenes where the geography is difficult to keep track of. The film doesn’t do a good enough job of letting you know exactly what and where is going on. Some of the simpler more intimate action scenes work a lot better, when it’s a one on one fight they’re pretty damn good, but it’s when the film aims bigger that the flaws seem more apparent.

There are also quite a few issues when it comes to plots. Numerous dominos are set up but the film gets bored and walks away to play with something else before it gets a chance to topple them. Characters are set up to be antagonists, but then barely feature. This is especially troubling when the villain is as underdeveloped as the one in this is. The biggest example is with a briefcase. Very early on in the film someone attaches an explosive bracelet to the wrist of Salma Hayek’s character. If she steps too far away from an item in a briefcase then the bracelet will detonate. This plot point, combined with the title of the film, makes you think that will be the main narrative aspect of the film. And obviously that will play into the villains death later on in a scene of karmic retribution.

Nope, it matters for one scene. There’s one action sequence where it feels like it puts the character in danger, it then gets taken off. So why was it in the story? It didn’t add anything to the plot, there was only scene where it put the character in jeopardy, and it feels like too big a plot device to put in for that one moment. Feels like such a wasted opportunity.

This is exactly the kind of film you just put on, leave your brain at the door, and enjoy. It won’t hit anybody’s end of year best films list, but it will hit the funniest. It will probably have one for “best surprise character” if that was a thing which it probably isn’t. All the film, Ryan Reynold’s character talks about his dad and how he was an elite bodyguard, and all he wanted to do was impress him. He goes to his house, and you see his dad standing in the shadows, cloaked in darkness. The way they build it up you know he’s going to be somebody, you know that the film wants you to react to him stepping out with a “holy shit”. Importantly, you know it’s going to be someone you recognise. But you’ve seen all the big actors who were mentioned in the opening credits. So I was sitting there thinking if there’s anyone I missed. And then out of the shadows steps……..

Morgan Freeman.

Probably the best positive response I’ve seen to a single moment in the cinema this year. I’ve heard people cry, I’ve heard people be visibly impressed, but that’s the closest I’ve felt to the traditional American At Cinema moment of cheering. It worries that some versions of the poster have him on it, as it ruins the surprise.

It’s possible my experience was helped by being at a relatively enthusiastic crowd. There weren’t many people there, but the ones who were made themselves known (not in an obnoxious way). Maybe if I saw it on my own I wouldn’t have liked it as much, but I can’t really test that hypothesis without watching it at home alone.

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.

 

The Big Sick

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.

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Probably because it’s based on his real relationship with his wife (pictured here)

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.

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Also random appearance of Vella Lovell which made me happy. New eps of Crazy Ex Girlfriend soon 😀

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:

  1. This.
  2. La La Land (musical drama)
  3. 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:

  1. Believable characters.
  2. Great dialogue.

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.

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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.

The Best Single-Location Films

Free-Fire was released to UK cinemas this week, seemingly two-hundred millennia after the preview screenings (ok it was actually like a month, but still). Been excited for it since I first saw the trailer, and more so since I heard that it is like the trailer suggests, and is all in one location. I like when films do that, it’s a sign of good writing and acting if it holds your attention like that. Oddly enough I don’t think I’ve seen one that didn’t work, probably because it’s such a hard thing to pull off that studios will only risk it if they’re absolutely certain it would work, these films have to be better than average as if they’re anything less people will be highly critical. So with that in mind, here’s a list of my favourites. Let’s start some ground rules

  1. Has to mainly (at least 95%) take place in one location.
  2. Location has to be relatively confined (otherwise some smart-ass will be like: “what about this film? It all takes place in one location; earth”)
  3. I have to have seen it (like most of these blogs, this is the biggest hurdle as it counts out Rope and Rear Window, which I was tempted to put in purely on the basis they’re Hitchcock so I’m sure are brilliant)

So, let’s do this.

5. Locke

Yeah, I’m surprised this is the first one I’m mentioning too. I’d have guessed it would be top three, but then I saw what else is on this list, and as much as I do love Locke (and I do) this has to come 5th. I know quite a few people don’t like this, and it’s easy to see why, the “one person cast” kind of films are not for everyone, and that’s okay. Actually I feel that point needs to be made more often; it’s not essential to like a film. It is possible to recognise a film is very well crafted, and still not like it. The whole “if you don’t like x then you’re obviously not smart enough, or you don’t get it, or (and this is the worst) I’m going to explain to you why you’re wrong, using spreadsheets and citations from people” It’s that kind of attitude which puts people off film discussion. The film that made me realise exactly how good Tom Hardy is. This film is unique on this list as the entire film takes place in a car, driving down the motorway. As such you don’t even really get the sense of claustrophobia that these type of films provide. However the fact Hardy’s character is in a moving location does provide a unique feeling to it, despite him being the driver of the car he very much is a passenger of his own film, being driven by fate to a conclusion he’s desperately trying to avoid.

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Tom Hardy with his beard of gloom (not pictured; Welsh accent of sadness)

4. Tape

Merging two film gimmicks in one; not only is it all in one location, it also takes place in real time. Unpopular opinion; is probably my favourite Linklater film. I like what it says about people, and the dynamics that occur in certain friendship groups. Very minimalist cast; the entire film is Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard in a room discussing awkward things, then being joined by Uma Thurman for the home stretch. Was originally written as a play by Stephen Belber, only found that out whilst writing this but it’s fairly obvious that was the case whilst watching it. Is the kind of writing that’s perfect for drama students to use for auditions. Unlike most Linklater films this one is often mentioned as something amazing, which is a shame as it is truly something unique and I’d recommend everybody watch it.

3. Moon

Is this a one location film? Apparently so, I don’t remember it being so but apparently it is, and I do love this film so it earns its place. The debut film by Duncan Jones, who has since moved onto direct Source Code and Warcraft, but to me this will always be his best (at least until Mute comes out this year; a sci-fi mystery film starring Alexander Skarsgard as a mute bartender alongside Paul Rudd and Sam Rockwell? I’m sold). This film is one of the best sci-fi films I’ve seen, visually stunning (especially on a relatively low budget). Sam Rockwell is mindblowingly good in this, playing not only the main character, but also his clone. Yeah it’s a weird film, but well worth checking out. And it features the voice of Kevin Spacey, what more do you want from this film?

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It’s also much much better than this, which is a good concept poorly written

2. Breakfast Club

Truth be told, I didn’t even realise this was a single location film until doing research for this. That’s how good this film is. Although let’s face it, part of that might be because has such a large cast compared to the others. Possibly one of the most 80’s films that exists, this defined the genre. Yes, Sixteen Candles was the first of these films, the one that paved the path, but it was Breakfast Club that lit the way so others could follow in their footsteps. Anybody wanting to break into filmmaking should watch this, this is the closest cinema gets to the attitude of punk. One of the main things about punk music was that anybody could do it, you didn’t need to have elaborate sets on stage, you didn’t need the knowledge to play 10 minute guitar solos, you could just pick up instruments and play. This is the film equivalent; there’s absolutely nothing here you can’t do yourself, the locations are all within reach, there’s nothing unachievable here. This would actually be perfect way to showcase skills on a film course; you hand someone the script for this and say “make a scene from this”, and see how they do it.

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1. Buried

This had to be number one really, and not only because of how much I love Ryan Reynolds (that’s only part of it). I hate to say that I didn’t watch this film because I found the concept interesting, or I read the reviews; I watched this film for one reason and one reason only: Ryan Reynolds. Now if you like Ryan Reynolds, you will love this film, as he is the only person in it. The entire film is him trapped in a box. When I first heard about it i thought that that couldn’t possibly work. Surely they have flashback scenes? Or he gets out about half hour into the film and suddenly it turns into an action film? But no, it’s just one guy, in a box for the entire film. And it is a remarkably effective piece of filmmaking. The singular location means the audience feels just as trapped and claustrophobic as the character. If the film had any cutaway scenes it would only serve to break up the tension. So I’ve established it makes you feel trapped, but is it a good film? The answer; yes it’s fucking good, hence why it’s my number one. I recommend that everybody see this film at least once. But only once, any more like that and you do risk suicide.

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It’s this, for an hour and a half. And it’s glorious

Special Mentions (a.k.a; films I’ve heard are good but haven’t watched yet)

Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?

Reservoir Dogs

12 Angry Men

Das Boot

Symbol

My Dinner With Andre

 

Yes, I apologise for never having seen some of those, I’m a terrible person.

 

End Of Year Film Awards

Best Actor

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Aaron Taylor-Johnson – Nocturnal Animals. Better known as “That kid from Kick-Ass”. One of the things about Kick-Ass was that it was about a hero who looked absolutely nothing like a hero, in fact there’s one scene where he threatens somebody and they just laugh at him. Yet in this he’s absolutely terrifying. His despicable nature just oozes out of the screen every second he’s on. Genuinely unsettling, and utterly compelling.

Also:

Bradley Cooper – Joy. If only because he’s responsible for the best moments in the film. His scenes with Jennifer Lawrence almost make her up her game, and it’s a much better film during those all too brief moments.

Best Actress

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Brie Larson – Room. Did you watch this film? Then you know why. She was just amazing in this. Everything about her performance was perfect. I saw this in January, which meant I had 11 months of performances which couldn’t even match it.

Also:

Madison Wolfe – The Conjuring 2. A performance beyond her years.

Julia Roberts – Secrets In Their Eyes. The first time I feel I’ve truly “got” her as an actress. Superb.

Best Script

Eye In The Sky: A film which could have been very bad if written differently. Same plot, same actors, same director and this film would not have only been bad, but catastrophically awful. As it was this film was perfectly paced. When doing a film like this you do run the risk of attempting methodical and instead just ending up with it being boring and too slow. You need to slowly crank up the tension through dialogue, if it goes wrong, it’s awful, but when it works it’s phenomenal. A fitting epitaph to Alan Rickman’s career.

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Worst Film

The Boss: I really want to like Melissa McCarthy, but she keeps making terrible films. Her character in this is extremely unlikeable with almost no character arc that redeems her. In almost any other film she’d be the main villain.

Best Film Moment

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Arrival – The meeting scene. There’s a moment in this where Amy Adam’s character first meets the aliens. It’s about ten minutes long and you can’t take your eyes away from the screen the entire time. Everything about it is perfect, the look, the acting, it all builds towards something which if there’s any justice will become as big a part of pop-culture iconography as scenes from Close Encounters, ET, or Alien. A moment full of pure wonder that truly shows what film can do.

Worst Film Moment

Batman Vs Superman: Martha. A moment which almost became shorthand for “awful and nonsensical”. The thing is, it does kind of make sense when you think about it, it could have been very believable that seeing someone as a person with a family will change your outlook on them, but the way it was delivered simply wasn’t good enough.

Best Film

Room: Excellent script, some of the best performances I’ve seen in a long time, and truly beautiful. This isn’t just film, this is emotional spectacle cinema. A film which I saw very early on in the year, and yet almost 12 months later it has still stuck with me.

Best Film To Look At

Arrival: A film shot with the warmth and cosiness of a home video. Science fiction (more than any other genre) seems to define itself by it’s look. And this film does more than enough to join the greats of the genre.

Also:

Pride And Prejudice And Zombies. 

Beautifully shot, the action scenes are brilliantly choreographed, and the costumes are superb. You could watch this on mute and still find things to appreciate.

Most Disappointing Film

Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice

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This film had so much riding on it, so for it to fall as much as it did (critically at least) is very disappointing. Especially since the problems in it are easily fixed. Some of them aren’t personal preference, they’re basic storytelling mistakes. I know it sounds awful to say but this film should end somebody’s career, you cannot make some of the mistakes they made in this film and still hope to make films. It had such high potential too, it really needed to be great, but in the end it was merely only “okay”

Also:

10 Cloverfield Lane

A film of three thirds: the first two are really good, matching up and in some ways surpassing the original, tense and claustophobic, just brilliant. Then it’s all thrown away in the final stretch until it dissolves into what William Shakespeare would describe as “a massive pile of wank”

Central Intelligence. It took too long to get to the point of the film, and there weren’t really enough “laugh out loud” moments. Reminds me of Hear No Evil, See No Evil, in that the chemistry between the leads is better than the actual fil.

Most Surprising Film

The 5th Wave

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I expected this to be just low-grade YA shlock. Yet it had a really really good plot and some excellent moments. Yes it wasn’t the greatest film I saw this year, but it was a lot better than I thought it would be.

Also: Goosebumps.

Very solid and well made kids horror film. I saw some reviews of it which criticised it for “looks like it was made for children”, which, you know, it was. It’s like criticising porn for being aimed at people who want to masturbate. Yeah it means it won’t make much money among people who want something to watch in the evening whilst drinking a glass of red wine in the evening, but it’s not meant to.

The “Well I Liked It” Award

The BFG: Called by some people “one of the biggest box office bombs of 2016” and I truly don’t get why. In a year which was the best one in recent memory for kids films, this one still stood out in a very crowded bunch. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again; there are many great films, only a select few are “magical”, and this is definitely one.

Best Marketing Campaign

Deadpool: A very violent comic book film, what would be the best way to market this?

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That’s actually pretty brilliant. During the run up to the release to this (way way back at the beginning of the year) Ryan Reynolds was on point, uploading almost in character updates on the film. If anybody doubting how well-suited he was to the role hopefully had those doubt squashed like a bug. Actually he continued it past release, doing new adverts to celebrate the film being out for a month in cinemas. A magnificent campaign which worked wonders. If there’s any doubt how successful this campaign was I’ll point this out; it meant people wanted to see the film, despite the fact that most peoples knowledge of the character being X-Men Origins: Wolverine.