Fighting With My Family (2019)

I may be biased but I genuinely loved this film. I found it incredibly funny and heartwarming. It may be Rock-produced film focused on a huge American company, but a lot of the humour is incredibly British and snarky, Nick Frost’s character showing disdain at having to wear a t-shirt as it’s too posh for him etc.  Also, it’s probably the only film this year to have the line “dick me dead and bury me pregnant” in it (unless the sequel to Secret Life Of Pets takes a weird left turn).

This film is helped by the performances. Everyone really gets into their characters, to the point where you forget they’re playing characters. I’ve seen the person this film is based on, and followed their career for years, I still forgot it wasn’t actually her in the film. It’s weird as she doesn’t physically resemble her that much, but the way she performs as her completely convinces you (much like Michael Sheen in The Damned United).

I am aware of the background of this film, the happy ending of the film is one I remember watching and my knowledge actually makes me like the film slightly less. They discount a lot of the work she did prior to that and how highly regarded she was. This film makes it look like she was one step away from being fired and nobody knows who she is. When the truth is she was one of the most highly regarded performers for the developmental company, and the internet loved her and were begging for her to be called up to the main company. This is also shown in the ending. In this, she gets called up and is met with silence as nobody knows who she is. In reality, the reaction she got was loud as hell (caused partly by a large number of English fans who were in attendance) and everybody loved her. I see why they played with reality though, it makes the film much better and flows narratively more. I mean, “highly respected performer who is known as one of the best gets a promotion after impressing on shows for over a year” isn’t as compelling a narrative as “plucky underdog comes from nowhere”. The other thing that makes reality cheapen this film; a sex-tape joke. The person this film is based on suffered from a leak of a sex tape, which led to her suffering from suicidal thoughts and being hospitalised from stress-induced anorexia. So the fact a character refers to another as “sex-tape” because “he makes you famous” seems a bit….awkward. Especially since it SO easily could have been cut out, it wasn’t in the middle of an important piece of dialogue and NOTHING would have been lost if it got cut.

Also, she’s now retired. She suffered an injury which means if she wrestles again she risks paralysis. Although, again, I get why they didn’t put this in. It would have provided a real downer to what is essentially a feel-good movie. And this movie is feel-good. It’s charming, funny, and has the heart needed. That’s the forgotten part of a feel-good movie. If it’s just happy happy all the time the feel-good moments of it feel disingenuous. This film hits hard when it needs to. Yes, you see her succeed, but you see others fail. You see her rise, but you see the aftermath of someone else’s fall. You see her dream come true, but you see her brothers’ dream get torn away from him and he has to watch her succeed where he can’t.

The film also looks good. Apparently, Stephen Merchant was hand-picked to direct this, and I can’t see why. By which I mean I have no idea why he thought he’d be right for this, I mean, he is, completely. He nails every moment of this with a sleekness and brilliance. The way he cuts between a lot of the scenes is genius and I truly love it. I really hope he does more directing work as he’s REALLY good at it.

Advertisements

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

Rampage (2018)

I mentioned in my Tomb Raider review (available here) that that film is a video game movie with the emphasis on the “movie” part. This is the opposite, this is like watching a playthrough on youtube of a game. It’s just sheer balls to the wall fun. This is not a smart movie, and it’s not a movie you need to watch again and again, analysing every frame. But whilst it’s not something you NEED to see again, it is something you’ll WANT to see again, late at night, when you’ve had a bad day and just need something to distract you from the unrelenting horror of modern life.

The cast all know this as well, none of them seem to be taking it seriously, and it’s a much better film for it. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, in particular, seems to be having the time of his life, giving his character a southern drawl and carrying himself in the most entertaining way possible. Let’s face it though, you’re not here to see him be entertaining as hell, you’re here to see CGI monsters destroy shit. And you’re in luck, as the closing third of this is just chaos upon chaos, the kind which last years Geostorm could have used. Surprisingly, the CGI holds up remarkably well. There are one or two brief moments where it looks a bit cartoon-like but other than that they’ve done a great job with making it all seem real. It’s also, really, really funny, having multiple laugh-out-loud moments throughout. Now I’ll admit the laughs aren’t exactly high-brow, but they’re incredibly effective. Who’d have thought a monkey making crude hand gestures would be so funny?

It’s not all good though. The villains are basically as substantial and necessary as the pop tarts one of them eats (although the actors playing them, again, do remarkably well). It’s a shame as I feel they’re just a few scenes away from being entertaining as hell, but they’re just not given enough to do to justify you remembering who they are. There are also three characters introduced at the beginning who disappear after the first act, which is just weird as they’re all introduced with character traits and personalities that could have justified them being there throughout. They’re built up so well and then just disappear. I’m guessing there’s deleted scenes of them somewhere but at the moment it just seems a bit weird, like the scriptwriter just forgot to delete them in his second draft.

It’s also not helped by its rating. It needed to be slightly more visceral. Now I’m not asking for 90 minutes of decapitations and torture porn, but there are some moments where they cut away slightly too early, or have something in the background out of focus that could have looked great in focus. Although you can have great violence in a PG film, a good example of this was The 5th Wave, which featured someone being knocked over by a giant wave. Now instead of having them just knocked off a balcony, it had them knocked off, and their back hit against a railing on the way down. It made it feel more real and painful. This film also has the “you mother f-explosion” thing which WAY too many films have lately and it’s annoying. Just say “fuck”.

So in summary: don’t go out of your way to see it, but do see it if you can. Incredibly fun and joyous. Kind of like Jumanji. And The Rock is hilarious in it, kind of like Jumanji. Actually, this is a lot like Jumanji, only slightly less so.

The 5 Best Kids Films Of 2016

5 Goosebumps

goosebumps-home-video

Are you surprised to see this here? Well to be honest, so am I. I had quite low expectations here, if expectations were a high jump, then this was set 2cms off the ground, and easily cleared it, not in a way to set a new world record, but one that still performs admirably. The great thing about this film is that it exists in a genre of one; it’s a kids horror film, and one that made back double it’s budget, so expect a few poor imitations in the next few years. I do feel guilty about putting this film here though, because it means I can’t put Finding Dory on this list. That’s not a knock against Finding Dory, it’s just an indicator of exactly how strong kids films have been this year, been a phenomenal time for them, and whilst Dory hit me harder emotionally, I think part of its target audience was adults, whereas Goosebumps was focused almost entirely on the kids. So whilst kids will grow up and watch Finding Dory when they’re older, I feel that while they’re younger, Goosebumps will have more appeal, and it’s odd that that could be seen as a bad thing in todays society, for kids films to be aimed at children. We almost expect them to have adult jokes in them now and consider films failures if they don’t, maybe because all film critics are adults so it can be hard for them to judge kids films on their own merits (probably not though, as they are professional).

4. The BFG

THE BFG

As already mentioned, I LOVED this movie. It was magical, as I said earlier this year:

“some films are funny, some films are heart-breaking, very few films can be described as magical, this is one of them”

It also had one of my favourite performances of the year, and is a film I’ve already considered buying on blu ray, despite being so poor at the moment I’m panicking about money about two days after receiving any. I know this film wasn’t rated that highly by critics, I just don’t get why. Normally when I disagree with critics it’s on comedies, films which I can see are definitely cult films, I don’t normally disagree based on “f*ck you this film was fairy lights and sunshine on celluloid”.

3. Kubo And The Two Strings

kubo-main_0

A film so strong and confident I just automatically assumed it was based on something. The fact that a new property can set up a world this full and real says a lot about the talent of both the writers and the directors. Surprisingly it’s the directors first film as a director, and I would not be surprised if he won an Academy Award for it (it’s not likely, but it would be very deserved). This was one of the few films this year I was actively following from the moment I saw the first trailer, it just looked so good, the music choice (While My  Guitar Gently Weeps) was inspired, and visually it was very different from everything else. This HAD to be fantastic for me to like it, anything else would be a bigger disappointment than the first time I tried Hershey’s Chocolate.

2. Zootropolis

download

A film that reminded me of an important lesson; you can have too many jokes in a comedy. I know that sounds weird but even in a comedy the characters need to treat the situation seriously, otherwise the audience don’t feel the jeopardy. If the characters don’t fear the situation, then why will the audience? It’s hard to believe but in the closing stretch of Airplane there’s barely any jokes, it’s all plot. This film does that too, there’s not many jokes in the final third, the characters are genuinely scared and determined and focused on plot, so that makes the stakes seem high to the audience, so they’re more emotionally invested. Now if I was doing a “favourite animated films of the year” then this would probably be top, but as I’m judging this by it’s standard as a kids film, this sadly has to be second. It’s definitely a better film than the one I’ve chosen to go in top spot, but not a better kids film for one simple reason; there’s no magic. There’s no moment where you sit watching this film and are overcome by a feeling of wonder and joy, there’s no “ooooooooo” moment. If it did that then it would definitely be top, and in most years it would, but this year it’s just beaten to the top spot by another film.

1. Moana

moana-fallback_fde4d101

A film so good it almost seems like Pixar made it, if it wasn’t for the songs. But oddly enough it’s the songs that push this to the top spot. I hate songs in kids films usually as they’re just distracting, but here it served a real purpose, characters seemed to have their own musical motifs attached to them, and the songs are REALLY good. There’s a crab singing a David Bowie-esque song, The Rock singing a song about how awesome he is, and they’re still not the best songs in this film. If “How Far I’ll Go” doesn’t get nominated for awards I will genuinely be surprised, it’s touching, empowering, and even from a technical standpoint just a superb piece of music. On the downside there’s one or two jokes that take you out of the movie (there’s a twitter joke in here which is quite funny but completely unnatural), but then they’re followed with moments of brilliance (the psychedelic crab scene for instance features animation so colourful and beautiful, the likes of which haven’t been seen in a long time). It also features what is without a doubt the best pee-joke of the year. So there’s that. Oh, it also features adorable/terrifying coconuts, which is always the sign of a great movie (be honest, how much better would every film be if you added anthropomorphic coconuts?)

 

So, that’s that. We’re starting work on our end of film lists as we speak so if there’s any films you think we’re likely to have not seen this year, let us know and we’ll try to watch them before the years out.

Recasting: Batman

This is pretty simple, we’re going to be casting our perfect Batman film to celebrate the release of Suicide Squad. Now I know, there was a more Batman-ey film released earlier this year, but we did a Justice League casting for that (available here) If you don’t know who Batman is then I’d like to say hello to you, 15th Century time traveller, marvel at our wonders; the internet, mobile phones, bubble wrap. Now read Batman.

Commisioner Gordon

c6cc207f32a1ad35b5b027dac17dce26

Denzel Washington

A different take on the character for sure, but he was still the first name that came to mind when I thought about who could take on the role of the stoic Gotham Detective. An underrated complex character, Gordon is one part the intellectual detective and another the bad ass police commissioner. Not only one of Batman’s closest friends (stories varying), in some ways Commissioner Gordon takes on the role of Batman’s handler, or at least one of his human connections that stops him from going over the edge. Without a doubt I believe Mr Washington would be able to bring the much needed gruff take to make the character his own and give a refreshing kick-ass Gordon who’s not afraid to get his knuckles dirty. Also he already knows how to rock a mustache.

Tommy Lee Jones

Tommy-Lee-Jones1Yes, I know he’s already been in a Batman film, but anybody who see’s that one quickly wishes they hadn’t, so it doesn’t count. People say casting Batman is hard, try casting Gordon, imagine trying to find someone who can match Gary Oldman’s performance! Tommy Lee Jones is good at doing the whole “gruff cop” thing, he played it to perfection in The Fugitive. And if Ben Afleck can play an older Batman, then we need an even older Gordon, and whilst Tommy Lee Jones is old, there’s no doubt in anybody’s mind that he’s still got it. He still has the ability to become his character and entrance the audience with his performance.

Robin

Logan Lerman

Which Robin you ask? Hmmm. Though I think the extraordinarily talented young star of logan-lerman-photoshoot-logan-lerman-29210026-250-322The Perks of being a Wallflower could work well as most male incarnations of the character, I see him best as Tim Drake, the third, and to me most interesting, Robin. He always focused more on the detective side of Batman (he becomes Robin by working out who Batman is, like a badass) instead of just the physical like Dick Grayson seems to. Also, he lacks the usual tragedy in his past that motivates him to be Robin; instead doing it because he recognises Batman’s need for a Robin.

But why Logan Lerman?  Because I like him and think he just has the right look. From Perks to Noah he’s proven himself a great dramatic actor, and though the Percy Jackson films were…underwhelming at best, he still showed he could handle action well enough.

Taron Egerton

This will obviously only work for a specific Robin. Well, two specific Robin’s: Tim Drake, and Damien Wayne (with slight tweaking so that his initial story arc into becoming Robin happens quicker thtaron-egerton1-564x360an it did in the original source material). Robin should not be the finished article, he should be someone who needs guidance, who needs Bruce, but pretends he doesn’t. He basically needs to be a young adult acting like a petulant child. But you also need to remember that he is still Robin, so his still very dangerous and could possibly kill you due to being trained in weaponry, but not being too great at stopping himself. I think Egerton could do that, he could pull off that dangerous apprentice, and then, when the time comes, move onto further things with the character.

Catwoman

Catherine Zeta Jones2054803-catherine-zeta-jones-a-la-premiere-du-fi-950x0-4

What needs to be said? Just look at her. Catwoman’s core characteristics are that she’s wiley, sexy, and kick-ass. All things Zeta Jones just seems to naturally emit already, combined with her record as an action star from the likes of Zorro and RED, as well as her dramatic work, she seems like the perfect fit. But more than that, I like that she would really bring the modern ‘woman’ aspect to the role; almost pushing fifty, and as we’ve already seen multiple younger incarnations of the character, a Catwoman with a few miles on her, more experienced and seasoned, would be much more refreshing and exciting than any teenybopper flavour of the week.

Emily Blunt

eot_blunt

Odd choice I know but this was done for a simple reason: if you can be in a male-dominated genre such as an action movie, working alongside a titan of the genre like Tom Cruise, and portray a strong enough character that people remember you, you deserve more roles. Good actress, fantastic with action, and with that sexiness that is (in some iterations), central to the character.

The Riddler

Jesse Eisenberg

Because I, like the few people who enjoyed Eisenberg’s performance in BvS (we do exist,12918618_584740531692129_1489645070_n we’re not just myths), enjoy it mainly just for the entertainingly camp yet oddly menacing fun he gave in his every scene in the overwrought film. He was a needed shot in the arm of fun the film needed. But ‘camp yet oddly menacing’ is not a good description for Lex Luthor, it is however a perfect description for one of Batman’s more zany villains, The Riddler. Some people seem to think Eisenberg was trying to be Ledger’s Joker with his performance, and who really the fuck knows. But! Change his name, outfit and give him riddles to constantly weave, and you’d have a pitch perfect Riddler; the fun camp of Carrey’s but with some genuine menace more akin with Nicholson’s Joker. Sounds good to me.

matt-smith-doctor-who-image-01.jpg

Matt Smith

One aspect The Riddler needs is to act like he’s the smartest person in the room. There’s been a tendency to play this character as comedic, he may be somewhat hyperactive and dressed weird (not entirely unlike a certain time traveller), but he still needs to be taken seriously. He should be fun, not comedic, there’s an important difference. He needs to be someone who is not only the smartest person in the room, but also the person who’s enjoying the chaos the most.  Matt Smith actually can be dangerous quite well and he’s proven it numerous times. Plus if he does this we might actually forget he was in Terminator Genisys.

Bane

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson

I’ll admit this is mainly superficial. Dwayne Johnson is huge, and so is Bane. So that equalsDwayne+Johnson+aka+Rock+films+scenes+set+new+ogGHuO_x0Tpl perfect casting. But there is a bit more to it than that, I swear. One thing Hardy’s take on the behemoth captured well was how charismatic Bane is, a master of words as well as muscles, but it’s the latter of that is something I don’t think he captured as well. Yeah Hardy was big, but he wasn’t Bane big (I know I know, Nolan realism and all that), that’s where I think Dwayne could come in magnificently; as if there are two things The Rock is known for,  it’s being fucking huge, and being very charismatic. The real hurdle would be whether someone as lovable as Dwayne Johnson can play a threatening villain convincingly and I don’t know, but I think he could. Again I think his sheer size will be his trump card in that department, and I think we can all agree we’ve seen less threatening looking people pull off being evil. Cough. One Hour Photo. Cough. Cough. Cough. Cough.

hqdefault

Batista

Oh look, we’ve both picked former wrestlers. And yeah I know this might be cheating as he’s been in a superhero movie already but come on! I mean, look at the guy! He’s built like a brick shithouse. I actually really liked Tom Hardy as Bane, my only issue with him is that he didn’t really seem big enough, Bane should tower over people, and Tom Hardy didn’t really seem to, he’d be perfect as another role. Batista on the other hand? Him as Bane would make it believable that he could be the one to break the Batman. Already had acting experience in the aforementioned Guardians as well as parts in Riddick and Spectre. If it came to it he could be a Bane that you truly believe Bruce Wayne would fear.

The Joker

Willem Dafoe

Once again, what needs to be said? just look at him; he almost wouldn’t need makeup. de45c1464d61b3b46bf510875f31ffa2Dafoe has made a career of playing deranged and creepy characters, so topping it off with the Clown Prince of Crime just seems natural (and who cares if he’s already played an iconic super villain? No one gives a shit Chris Evan’s played the human torch anymore.) But it’s beyond him just playing crazy well; it’s the lairs and distinctive ways he can play crazy, from a comical bloodsucker in Shadow of the Vampire, to a just plain nasty hitman in Wild at Heart, to just playing fairly normal guys in Platoon

 

Jake Gyllenhaal

This was kind of difficult for me but as soon as I thought of it I knew I had the right one: Jake Gyllenhaal. Now I know what some of you are thinking, “what, the Donnie Darko guy?” “what, the Brokeback Mountain guy?” “what, the City Slickers kid?” To which I say; watch Nightcrawler (and City Slickers, seriously? There is no way that’s the only film you know him from, you’re just showing ojakeff, now go away). Seriously, watch Nightcrawler, he’s insanely brilliant there with a sense of danger and fun that would make him perfect for the role of the Joker. The “fun” there is the most important aspect there for me, Heath Ledgers Joker was disturbing, no doubt about that, but it wasn’t that funny. The Joker should be a clown, their should be a comedic side to him, even if that comedic side is slow-cooked in sociopathy. For proof of this, what’s the definitive Joker story? The one most people use as a reference point for that character? Answer: The Killing Joke. Now, how does that story end? Answer: with a joke. The Joker tells Batman a joke mid fight scene that makes him break down in laughter (and maybe causes Batman to kill him, if certain sources are to be believed). Can you imagine Ledger’s Joker ending Dark Knight like that? It would seem weird and out of character. Gyllenhaal? I feel he could do it.

Mr. Freeze

Ralph Fiennes

Possibly the oddest choice on this list, but I think the most fitting if you know the character well. The Batman Animated Show’s take on Mr Freeze. The seminal show ralph-fiennes-by-kalpesh-lathigra2completely recreated the mad scientist with a freeze-ray into a sympathetic Shakespearean tragedy; a normal man who only became the villain we know because he was betrayed while trying to save his wife’s life, and then became stricken with grief ready to go to any extreme needed to avenge her. So who better to bring this bald heart of ice to life than this classically trained bald thespian? As when he’s not trying to kill boy wizard’s. Fiennes is known for his startling character acting, bringing depth and nuance to countless characters; from portraying Nazi’s to a Hotel concierge. Add in his action experience in the Harry Potter Series and you have an actor seemingly born to bring this chilling villain to heart stopping life.


Tomasz Kot.

I know, I can practically hear the “who?” from here. First off; stop saying “who”, it’s 2 in the morning and I’m trying to sleep. Secondly; watch Bogowie. He’s the lead in that and he has TREMENDOUS presence. The kind you don’t see anymore, he just carries himself in such a wonderful manner that you can tell he’s someone. The major downside to this is that this will probably meabogowien his emotional arc won’t be as effective as it was in the animated series due to English being the actors second language. But there’s a lot of characters in this hypothetical film, and I feel the villain who will have the least screen time would be Freeze, so you won’t have time to go into his tragic backstory, you need someone with presence who can come in for a few scenes and knock it out the park, and I feel he can do that.

Honourable Mention

Philip Seymour Hoffman as The Penguin.

I know, we usually try to make casting relatively realistic, but someone suggested this on Twitter and it just blew my mind how perfect this would have been. This is a role you know he would have taken on with gusto and given his all. And because Hoffman was so good you know that even if he was only in it for 10 minutes, people would remember it. People would clamour for him to have longer. This would have been one of the most perfect castings of all time, and it’s a real shame that it won’t happen. I will freely admit, I never liked The Penguin as a character, I found him too silly, too out there, too, dare I say it, comic-book to work. Then I watched Gotham, the Penguin in that is one of the highlights of the series and one of the best characters in television at the moment. So for a film version, you’d need to bigger, you’d need to go better, and who better than Hoffman?

hoffman.png