2018 In Film Part 3: The Thoroughly Okay

Okay, this one’s harder to define. A lot of the ones in this are very, very, good films. They just weren’t for me. They’re films which I admire, but don’t really feel anything for. Ones I’m very glad I’ve seen, but I don’t need to see again. As usual these have been decided by a group of people broken down by age and money (i.e. me, because nobody is more broken down by age and money than me)

Early Man

It’s done by the guys who do Wallace And Gromit, so you know it’s going to be enjoyable. The jokes are funny, but the basic plot and mediocre vocal performances let it down slightly. But I imagine kids won’t be sitting there watching it saying “well I’ve seen this story before and personally I think it was a mistake to cast famous actors in vocal performances and then get them to change their voices, very foolish from a marketing perspective”, and if a kid is sitting there saying that, they’re a twat.

Original review here

+A lot of love went into this film, you can tell it.

-Isn’t quite as smart as Aardmans usual.

The Festival

This was funny, it just didn’t mean enough. I watched it, and not too long ago, but I barely remember anything from it. I remember enjoying it whilst I watched it, and some of the jokes, but I don’t remember if it made me feel. I remember being impressed with how the director kept on scenes instead of cutting away, it wrung every inch of effectiveness out of the scenes. It also had great things to say about how you shouldn’t hold your heroes up on a pedestal, and it’s possible to do good and still be a dick.

Original review here

+Claudia O’Doherty was great.

-Really hard to imagine it being a film someone needed to make.

Finding Your Feet

Incredibly charming. But even if it’s the first film you’ve ever seen, you will feel like you’ve seen it before. It’s not a film you need to see, but when you’ve got family round on Christmas day, dinner is finished and you’re sitting around too full of food to move, no more presents to open, THIS is the film you want to put on to keep everyone entertained. People won’t love it, but people won’t hate it either. They’ll sit and watch and be entertained.

Original review here

+Great characterisation, you genuinely believe everybody here is a fully developed person.

-Paper-thin plot.

Goosebumps 2

Thoroughly okay. It’s not as good as the first one, but you wouldn’t expect it to be. But it is still a lot of fun. It continues the universe set up in the first one quite well, and sets up for a sequel.  I hope, if there’s no sequel then the mark for this gets reduced drastically (this won’t be the last time the mark for a film will be dependent on the sequel btw, just to warn you). It’s funny, the characters are likeable, and it’s hard to dislike. Also, it’s short. It never pauses for breath and you don’t feel bored with it *stares at Assassination Nation intently*

Original review here

+A lot of fun.

-Doesn’t live up to its own potential.

The House With A Clock In Its Walls

Not as good as the first Goosebumps, not even as good as the second one if I’m honest. It is kind of magical though. If I saw this as a kid I’d probably have loved it. It just didn’t really do much for me as an adult. A lot of the plot developments were dependent on characters being stupid. Which is a shame as the dialogue is not stupid, even though it is a kids film, you don’t feel insulted when you watch it as an adult, the jokes still work. It also looks great, but considering the director that’s to be expected.

Original review here

+A great film if you’re looking to introduce kids to horror.

-Not great if you’re not a kid and have seen a lot of films before.

The Meg

This is exactly what I expected it to be. It’s not the greatest film in the world, but it’s entertaining enough and gets the job done. It’s like the cinematic equivalent of a burger king. In the realm of dumb entertainment this is one of the best efforts. It’s funny, the romance sub-plot doesn’t feel forced or unbelievable, the child actor wasn’t annoying, Ruby Rose was great, and it was just insane fun. Recommended, but not highly.

Original review here

+Incredibly fun.

-Should have had more carnage. Was really held back by its rating.

The Post

This is the kind of film which awards love, yet I didn’t. It’s just too, I don’t know, bland. There’s a definitive difference between films that win awards, and films that I love. It builds up to the Meryl Streep moment well, and the performances are fine. It just felt a little hollow to me and didn’t resonate with me on a personal level. I genuinely can’t remember a single moment from this film.

Original review here

+Incredibly competent and well-made.

-Quite forgettable.

Rampage

I liked this, it was incredibly fun, and funny. But that’s all it was. it had little to no actual substance to it. Also, like a few films lately, it was held back by the rating. It has explosions instead of swear words. Because death and destruction is fine, but heaven help us we hear a “fuck”.

Original review here

+A lot of fun.

-Incredibly flat characters.

Skyscraper

See my review of Rampage? I mean, how can you not, it’s like, right above this one. Yeah, this is similar, and not just because it has the rock in it. It’s also incredibly flat with little substance. It has moments of greatness, but it’s so bombastic that it’s hard to take seriously at times.

Original review here

+Has a great scene set in a mirror room. Truly awesome to watch.

-Incredibly dumb.

Swimming With Men

Funny, but again, that’s kind of all it is. It has emotional moments but not enough. I knew nothing about it going in, didn’t even see a trailer. It’s worth watching, but don’t go out of your way to see it. Luckily you don’t need to as it’s on netflix (in the UK at least). It’s well worth watching it on that when you have nothing else to do. It’s a great way to kill time, but it won’t change your life.

Original review here

+Incredibly heartwarming.

-Misuse of Jane Horrocks.

Tomb Raider

The best of the video game films this year. Definitely has the substance which Rampage lacks. Looks professional, to the point where you wouldn’t know it was a video game, it stands up on its own merits. This is probably the best of the films in this blog, and very nearly made it into the next blog instead. The main thing that stopped it was the fact that it is only ever “good”. It never goes beyond “good”. And it doesn’t seem to try. I mean, it is the best video game movie seen in a long time, but that’s not saying much.

Original review here

+Good action set pieces

-At times a bit hard to suspend your disbelief.

Unsane

The gimmick of this film is that it was shot on an iphone. You really should know this before you see it, otherwise you’d hate it as you’d think it looks incredibly cheap and slipshod. It’s worth a watch, even if only once to reward experimentation in cinema. The performances are good, Juno Temple shines in the small moments she’s allowed to. And the story is compelling, it’s just the visual nature of it is distracting. Cinema is expensive, so when you pay that much you expect a certain level of professionalism. If this was on netflix I’d be more forgiving, but full price cinema release makes me feel a little cheated.

Original review here

+Juno Temple. Her performance is the best horror movie performance not in a horror movie.

-Distracting Matt Damon cameo.

Walk Like A Panther

Very funny. Very British. Both in a good and a bad way. It seems like it should be on ITV. It promoted itself as a love letter to British wrestling, but it didn’t seem to do any research on it and was seemingly written by people who knew nothing about the actual subject. To the point where the actual central premise doesn’t work if you know anything about the subject. British wrestling is actually in the best shape it’s been since it’s heyday, this is not opinion, this is fact. There are multiple independents doing incredibly well, and one of the major companies opened up a regional training facility and show over here. If you know that, it’s weird to take the film seriously. It would be like if you watched a film about World War 2 where the central premise is that Hitler was a Ghanian princess who was trying to get revenge on Britain for colonialism.

Original review here

+A variety of humour types in the film, so if you don’t like one joke, another will come along soon which you might.

-Feels cheap and unambitious.

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The Meg (2018)

The opening scene to this did not fill me with hope; Statham’s accent was off, we saw an action scene that wasn’t that great, and the character dynamics were a bit meh. It was at this point I worried, that I’d watch something just dumb, instead of dumb fun. As the film went on, I warmed to it, even at some points being able to tolerate Statham’s accent (why they couldn’t let him do a natural one is beyond me). It isn’t anywhere near as dumb as I expected it to be. I mean, if you think about it for a few minutes there are numerous scientific inaccuracies throughout, but the point is you have to think about it. They don’t immediately jump out at you. It’s fun enough, and well-crafted enough, that you don’t really notice any flaws or problems with it. Yeah sure, once you’ve finished you will have lots of “wait a minute, that didn’t make sense”, but in the moment you don’t care as you’re too entertained. Jon Turteltaub (who also gave the world the best bobsled-themed movie of all time in Cool Runnings, and also gave us the pilot episode of Rush Hour, which I didn’t even realise had a TV show based on it) knows what to do; he is great at showing scale. It would be very easy to forget how big the titular Meg is, to just show a plain shot of it with nothing else in frame to give an indicator, he doesn’t do this; every time the shark is on screen, you’ve given a reminder of how absolutely massive it is. It’s spectacle cinema, but in a different way than Skyscraper was. Skyscraper was about set pieces, this is about creating something larger than life, and I haven’t seen it done this well since Kong: Skull Island. It helps that the CGI holds up REALLY well in this film, there’s not many moments where you sit there thinking “that looks fake as shit”, although you do wonder how a movie featuring a giant shark can look more real than a scene in Spider-Man: Homecoming where two characters have a conversation.

It’s also funny as hell. With the right kind of jokes. You don’t have people get brutally killed then characters making jokes about it, the jokes are contextual and relevant, which is a welcome change.

I’ve spent most of this film gushing over how likeable and fun I found this. I suppose to be balanced I should talk about the bad things. That cast……are actually good. Ruby Rose continues to be incredibly likeable in almost everything she does. Hmmm, okay so I can’t go for that as a negative. Okay, the obvious pandering to the Chinese market…..wasn’t that big an issue. They had good narrative reasons for a lot of it so it wasn’t as jarring as it was in Independence Day. Damn, have to go with something else. The romance….actually kind of worked. Jason Statham’s character is joined by his ex-wife on the trip, so I expected it to go the traditional way and have them get back together. But nope, he ends up with another character, (played by Li Bingbing) joining her and her child. Okay that’s it; the child actor……wasn’t terrible and provided the film with a lot of emotion and heart, wasn’t distractingly awful, and her decisions didn’t render her a useless load on the rest of the characters. This was helped by both her performance, and good writing. Gosh darn it! Going to have to go with something else. The restrictions placed upon it by the rating? Actually that would be a valid criticism. It keeps threatening to be gorier than it is, and it would be a lot more satisfying if we could see more blood. This needs gore, we need to see destruction and lots of people eaten and we don’t get that. There’s a scene in particular near the end where the shark heads towards a crowded beach. The film builds up a brilliant scene full of carnage and fantastic set pieces, which we then don’t get as it pulls away at the last second. The film gives the audience an over-the-pants handjob when it really needs to fuck us.

And that’s where I’m ending this. Next weeks reviews will be The Festival and The Equalizer 2, where I’ll spend most of the review trying not to call it “The Sequalizer”, and probably failing.

Skyscraper (2018)

This film knows what it is. It’s a popcorn movie. A film that demands being seen at the cinema as that’s its home. It needs to be seen on a big screen, and you can’t expect great cinema etiquette. Yeah if someone is on their phone then you should still legally be allowed to slap their wrist with a razor blade, but someone laughing loudly? That’s fine during this. Someone sitting there loudly eating popcorn? Also fine. It’s almost like it was made specifically for people to audibly react, it’s like the anti-Quiet Place. It’s an incredibly fun distraction. The kind of film you can imagine watching whilst drinking with your friends late at night. It’s not going to change the world, or be studied in film class by future directors, and if you say this is your favourite film, I will judge you.

So this film should be run of the mill guilty pleasure. There’s one thing that stops it from being that; the main character is an amputee. To say that again; the action hero is an amputee. It’s very rarely mentioned, he’s not defined by it and it only really comes up once every so often. It’s a small thing, but I love that action movie fans in a similar situation finally have representation on screen. Usually, when you see someone like that on screen it’s as the villain, it’s about damn time they were allowed to be the hero. Yeah, it’s a shame the character was played by someone with 2 legs but still, baby steps. Also, The Rock is just killing it lately. Jumanji, Rampage, and now this? He’s quickly becoming the go-to guy for popcorn flicks.

So we’ve established this film is fun. It’s entertaining shlock and you’ll enjoy it whilst watching it. There are some issues with it, of course, the CGI isn’t quite as clean as it needs to be in some areas, which occasionally makes it feel like you’re watching a video game cutscene. The majority of characters are underutilized, and, personally, I’m getting incredibly bored of “the bad guys are doing this so they can get hold of this USB stick” plots (seriously, it’s the MacGuffin for sooooo many movie characters lately). Also, it’s hard to feel any genuine tension as you can pretty much pinpoint how every scene will play out. I must commend them on the room of mirrors scene though, that was BEAUTIFULLY orchestrated and laid out, THAT’S the scene you need to see. You don’t need to see the rest, but I advise that you should, and watch it on a big screen. This film will lose so much of its potency if you watch it on a small screen. It’s spectacle cinema, and deserves to be treated as such. The action is some of the most jaw-dropping you’ll see. The bits which aren’t action-heavy? They’re…..look watch the action bits. The rest of it is difficult to recommend. The opening third, in particular, is exposition in a film that really doesn’t need that much exposition. People aren’t going to see this film for the brilliant camera work, they’re going to see it because “ooo things go boom”. It doesn’t need as many characters as it has, as it means most of them go to waste. Neve Campbell, in particular, seems incredibly underdeveloped for a performer of her calibre. I think Hannah Quinlivan is underwritten as well, but it’s hard to tell as her character flits in and out of the script like a drunken desire to commit suicide. She’s good when she’s in it, but she isn’t really in it enough to warrant a strong opinion on her either way, I’d like to see her in more so I can find out.

So yeah, go see it. You may not love it, but you will enjoy it