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 House With A Clock In Its Walls (2018)

Those who know me know that I absolutely adore the Goosebumps movie from a few years ago. It was like a horror movie for kids and was absolutely delightful. This is kind of similar, in that it has Jack Black in and has an air of horror about it. It’s not QUITE as fun though. It has some good moments in it, and it does inspire some genuine laughs. But not enough. It does help that it’s directed by Eli Roth, who has a critically and fan-acclaimed history when it comes to horror movies. This film is the work of someone who knows what they’re doing, but is toning it down slightly for the younger audience. This is definitely a film for kids, it is a slight horror but it has that warm feeling that you associate with films from the 80’s like ET etc. There’s an air of warm nostalgia to the whole thing that will warm the hearts of fans of those films. It’s incredibly, I don’t know, cosy.

The script, as well, is pretty damn good. It’s funny without being insulting to the intelligence of adults watching. That’s in terms of humour anyway, there are quite a few moments where the characters think of an idea long after the audience have. These are supposed to be highly intelligent and trained wizards, yet it takes them A LONG time to come to certain conclusions and ideas. That only happens like once or twice but it’s enough to take you out of it. A lot of my issues with this are incredibly minor, this is a hard film to actively dislike. The biggest problems for me were some toilet humour that doesn’t really suit the tone of the film, and Jack Black’s performance was a bit over the top at the times, it might have improved it if he toned it down about 2%. He does have fantastic chemistry with his co-stars though, so that makes up for it. You genuinely feel that they really bonded on set and became close. Which considering the themes of closeness in the movie, makes sense.

Just because it’s a difficult film to dislike, does not mean it’s an easy film to love. It is an easy film to like, though. It just doesn’t really do much to make you remember it for years to come. The final third almost manages it, with a chaotically fast-paced piece that is logical and weird. The whole film is weird, which makes sense as that’s the message of the film: weird is good, embrace the weirdness. Also; bullies are dickholes.

Searching (2018)

I have a love/hate relationship with “gimmick” films. You know what I mean, the kind where the biggest sell of it isn’t the plot or actors, but the way they made the film. When they’re done well, like Buried (one person in a casket for the entire film), they’re a great piece of film-making, but they have to be great, because if they’re only okay (Unsane), then the fact it’s a gimmick-heavy film works makes it seem worse. The gimmick of this film; it takes place entirely on computer screens. This has been done before; with Unfriended, which considering I now call that “Unfriended. A.k.a, fuck that film” should show how highly I regarded that film, and my expectations for this.

Glad to say I was surprised. This film was good, very good. The worry about doing a story like this is if the audience figures out the ending too soon, if they get to it a long time before the character does, the character looks like an idiot. It’s not just the ending, if the audience comes up with an action that the main character didn’t consider, it can sour the film (as I’ll go into in more depth when I review The House With A Clock In Its Walls, where the characters get to an idea WELL after the audience does). That kind of action makes you feel the film is treating the audience like idiots. This doesn’t treat you like an idiot, but it will make you feel like one. There are multiple times where you’ll think “it’s definitely this person who kidnapped her, definitely, EVIL! EVIL!” and you feel smart for figuring it out, then it turns out you’re wrong. The final twist for this is perfect, as it answers a lot of questions you didn’t even realise had been asked. It enhances the rest of the film as opposed to negating it, and it’s set up so beautifully you’ll immediately want to watch the film again. It’s one of the few films this year where I was genuinely on the edge of my seat for the entire thing (although that might also be because the very nature of the film means everything is in focus all the time, so you lean in to become actively involved so you pay attention to everything). It’s really hard to pick a stand-out moment from this; the entire thing was just brilliant. Even the opening montage was so skillfully done you can’t fault it. It was a 5-minute long summary of a girl growing up viewed through a camera lens; incredibly heartwarming and really pushes the idea of the family, which is what essentially this film is about. It’s about how people hide their full self from family, for fear of disappointing, or being judged. It also says a lot about the human condition; when the news breaks about the girl’s disappearance, a lot of people on Twitter accuse the dad, saying he definitely murdered her. He reads these because of course, he does. It’s a sharp reminder that the words you say as a faceless being on the web, are being read by real people, so don’t be a dick. This leads to a great moment of catharsis where he finds someone who was saying things like that, and just punches him in the face. It’s remarkably therapeutic to watch. There’s also a deliciously dark moment where a company responds to the news coverage of her missing by e-mailing him saying “We do live webcasts of funerals” hoping to use it for publicity. It’s so evil, yet so recognisably true of how a business would react to that. It’s kind of hard to watch because of how accurate it portrays the way people and businesses respond online to tragedy.

This review has been a bit all over the place I know, but that’s because it’s hard to focus on one thing. It does SO much right, and I can’t wait to see it again. It’s so good *spoilers* even the happy ending doesn’t feel forced or tacked on. Some films are so good they inspire you to make similar films, this film is so good it will kind of make you want to give up as you know you will never touch it. It’s apt that I reviewed this after finishing the Saw series, because that series could learn a lot from this about how to craft a decent mystery.