Red Sparrow (2018)

There’s a scene in this where one of the characters is tied to a chair and has their skin slowly stripped off layer by layer. It’s still less painful than watching this film. Okay, that’s a bit hyperbolic, but there’s a lot of truth in that. I will not look back on this fondly, for multiple reasons. One, it wasted a good cast: Jennifer Lawrence is actually really good, just the film is bad. Same goes for Jeremy Irons et al. The story itself just isn’t good enough. To be an effective film of this genre you need to be one of two things:

  1. Lots of fun and expertly made (John Wick,  Atomic Blonde, the Bourne/Bond series etc)
  2. Incredibly clever, with more twists and turns than a rollercoaster someone makes in a video game.

This was neither, I’m thinking it was aiming more towards the second one but wasn’t quite good enough to do it. I mean, it does have a twist, but it only really effects the final 5 minutes, it doesn’t affect the way you watch the film. You won’t watch it for a second time and delight in the intricate way the ending was set up throughout the film. There are no layers, no hidden depths to the film. Everyone pretty much says what their intentions are, all the time.

I get what they were going for; kind of like an 80’s Sex and Soviet’s style spy film. But they’ve forgotten one thing: those films were fucking terrible. They were badly written, misogynistic as hell, and treated sex the same way virgin fan fiction writers do. It doesn’t even have the decency to look impressive, even The Snowman managed that, and I’m pretty sure the script for that was written on a napkin. Spy films should look crisp and clear, the brutality of the actions contrasting with the stark nature of the surroundings. This just looks dreary, like it’s taking place in Milton Keynes whilst it’s about to rain. These kinds of films deserve to be great, they should take your breath away, and this one doesn’t (although if someone did say they were going to choke me during it, I probably would have accepted the offer as it would have made a nice distraction).

As you can probably tell, I was not a fan of this film. It wasn’t without merit, the performances are good, and the way they set up the films universe was good, it’s just almost everything else which didn’t work. This seems very “first draft”. Like if you looked at it again you could fix it, make a few tweaks here and there, cut out the unnecessary scenes (and at 140 minutes, trust me, there’s A LOT of that), set up the ending better, and you’ll have a pretty damn good film. You could get a somewhat decent film if you edited this differently, but the way it is? Wouldn’t recommend. I wouldn’t even watch this if it got put on netflix. Really disappointing as I had high hopes for this.

2017 In Film; Part 2 (The Meh)

The qualifier for this is somewhat more complicated than the previous one. These aren’t necessarily bad films, just films that I don’t need to see again. Mainly films that I didn’t like, but can appreciate one thing in it. So quite bad, but had a single redeeming feature that makes them slightly worthwhile as a curiosity. There’s a few here which I can see people being annoyed about are in here. So I should point out that this is nearly all personal opinion, so please don’t firebomb me.

Alien: Covenant

I can’t really make a fair judgement on this as I have never seen any of the others. Despite that, I did recognise a lot of scenes from this that seemed to be taken straight out of the other films in the series. And if I managed that I can only imagine how infuriating it must have been for people who are fans of the series, must have felt like they were watching a remake.

+Katherine Waterston is fucking superb.

-Doesn’t really do enough to stand out on it’s own. I can’t imagine anybody saying “you know what? I hate most of the Alien films, but I really love Covenant”

American Assassin

Not quite as good as the trailer would make you think. Not slick enough, not polished enough, not quite good enough.

+Really good opening scene showing off the panic that attacks can have on the general public.

-A weird view of revenge. Constantly told how revenge poisons the soul but then shown lots of shots of the lead actor kicking ass and being awesome. It’s like when you play Grand Theft Auto IV and dialogue about how the main character doesn’t want to go back to crime is interspersed with him shooting everybody in the face. A film that tries to not just have its cake and eat it, but also spends all the time telling you how unhealthy cake is and nobody should ever have any.

Annabelle: Creation

It’s odd, these films always have REALLY good trailers, full of tense moments and good scares, but they never really work full length. That being said, this is a lot better than the first one. Although considering that is still one of the worst films I’ve seen, that’s not difficult. Renders the original (which is technically the second Conjuring film, and a sequel to this, it’s odd) completely pointless as an origin story. Has some okay performances in it but most of them are just standard. No actual scares really, all jump scares. The scariest moments in this film had nothing to do with this film; 1) I thought there was only one other person in the cinema, who was sitting behind me. But near the end a phone went off near the front. Made me jump. 2) A seat was broken and had a white sheet covering it. Whenever someone opened the door (like when a cinema worker came in to check things were okay) it caused a draft which made the sheet rise, made it look like someone was standing up underneath it.

+A few scenes are spectacularly done. And it ties in well with the rest of the franchise.

-Only does so by rendering the previous origin film pointless. It would be Batman Begins having a prequel where it turns out he was bitten by a radioactive bat whilst in the well, and the rest of the films are a result of that.

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She got better as the film went on, in the closing section she was superb.

Battle Of The Sexes

Great performances, Steve Carrell, in particular, seems to be throwing himself into this with everything he’s got. And the story is compelling and it does a great job of setting the time and place it’s in. So why so low? This is a one scene film. No matter how good the rest of the film is, the audience knows it’s all building up to a single event/scene. In a film like that you need to make sure that scene is superb, and in this, it’s not. It’s quite blandly shot. It’s shot like an actual tennis match from the time would be, which I suppose at least gives it an air of authenticity, but also makes it quite a dull watch. Compare this to Creed from a few years ago, the boxing scenes in that were not filmed like a TV channel would film them, they were filmed like a movie scene, it gave them angles which you’d never get in an actual boxing match, and it was all the better for it. This doesn’t do that, most of it’s filmed from a distance, and this robs the scene of so much.

+Set design/costume were brilliantly done, to the point where just a still photo would set the scene.

-That final match. Just doesn’t work.

Baywatch

Why? Why does this exist? Who is an r-rated version of Baywatch for? People who liked the original won’t like it, and people who didn’t like the original won’t like this. Nobody was calling out for it and it feels like it was one of those films that were only made so they could hold onto the copyright. Also, does it need an R-rating? The only point of it would be nudity, to be as sexually exploitative as they can be, but it doesn’t really do that. Only has the rating because of the swearing, which I also have a problem with; there’s far too much swearing just for the sake of swearing. Now onto the actual film; the opening scene is basically “Look how fabulous The Rock is. He’s basically perfect”. Just full of other characters complimenting him so much that it almost seems sarcastic.

+The line “I can’t save you if you’re being a dick” made me laugh.

-As with a lot of these sequel/reboot it’s far too in debt to the original to make its mark as an original film.

Cars 3

I liked this a lot more than the previous two. Although it should be said that I detest the previous two. I think they’re the only blots on Pixar’s record. Ties into the first one a lot better than the second one did, making the second one seem kind of like a spin-off.

+Genuine emotion in a lot of scenes. And there’s less Larry The Cable Guy, which is always a good thing.

-For a film called Cars the plot is really pedestrian.

Death Note

Oh dear. Oh dear. More like “Death No”, amirite? But yeah this was not a good film. Quite annoyed actually as I wanted this to be good. If only to prove people wrong. This had people against it from the start just because it was a remake. So when bad reviews came in I thought “that’s just idiot fanboys who can’t let go and see objectively, I’m going to watch it and I’m going to like it”. I was wrong, it was bad. The characterisation is completely wrong. They made a lot of mistakes but the biggest is they made Light average. There’s no sense of a tense cat and mouse game between Light and L, and a lot of the rules from the book have actually been changed for the sake of the film for seemingly no reason at all.

+Soundtrack/cinematography. And Willem Defore.

-Doesn’t so much throw away the mythology of the series, so much as burn it then piss on the ashes.

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L was good though

Despicable Me 3

This came really really close to being in the previous one. Like, really close. Then I remembered the amount of 80’s music and references in it which made me slightly smile.

+A love letter to the 80’s, albeit not a very well written one.

-Waaaaaaay too scattergun. Has no idea what the main plot is, there seems to be about 4 of them all vying for attention and it never really focuses on any of them. It’s basically cinematic ADHD.

Detroit

This film suffers from the same problem as a lot of films about the subject do, the villains are so 2-dimensional that it’s hard to buy into the film. The trouble with doing films about race set in 1960’s etc US is that you can’t create a compelling villain. To me, a good villain is just a misguided hero, one where you can kind of see their point. You can’t have that with this, the bad guys are so obviously wrong they’re impossible to defend, they’re obviously pricks. Which is depressing as that’s what it was like back then, a lot of people in power were indefensible pricks who deserved to be punched in the kidneys. Also, the pacing is weird, you have an entire subplot about a band that doesn’t really add anything except 30 minutes to the runtime.

+From a technical viewpoint it looks superb, and has moments which feel really claustrophobic and tense.

-Occasionally seems like it doesn’t know what it’s wanting to say.

Flatliners

Brave move killing off who they did. It’s weird as it’s not really sure what it wants to be, is it a remake, a sequel, or something entirely new? Nobody knows, least of all the film itself.

+Looks and sounds superb.

-Entirely forgettable.

It Comes At Night

I liked it, but not as much as I thought I would. Probably because I saw at the cinema. I know some horror works great at the cinema, but I feel this would work better on your own in a small room. You need to feel part of that world, feel isolated, like a visitor in their world, and sitting in a vast room full of other people takes you away from that. I think I’m going to need to watch it again on headphones on my own, I might appreciate it a lot more then, but watching it on a massive screen in an empty room gave me a sense of freedom that the film couldn’t stop.

+Superb job of keeping you invested in the story.

-Doesn’t quite know what it’s doing sometimes. Some scenes are oddly unsatisfying

Jigsaw

Well it’s better than the last one, I’ll give it that. Trouble with these films is all the crimes exist on their own, there’s no investigation into the crimes effect on the outside world. Is crime going down because people are scared of being punished? Are there a lot of copycat killers? Do people see him as a hero or a villain? This is never touched upon, except in some of the posters for the one before this. Very disappointing. If you bring back a dead franchise, you best do it well. You need it to justify it’s own existence. This doesn’t really do that, it seems like just the next step in a yearly franchise. It doesn’t need to exist, adds nothing new, doesn’t really do much. This does something worse than being bad, it’s pointless.

+Brilliantly inventive traps.

-Pointless and adds nothing to the franchise. Would have been acceptable a year after the last one, but a massive gap means it’s a waste.

Power Rangers

Pure nostalgia fest.

+Some moments are a lot of fun. Especially in the opening “did you just slap me?” “yeah, weird right?” made me laugh.

-Takes itself far too seriously. You cannot make this film seriously, yet they attempted.

Rings

Unpopular opinion time; this film should not have been a horror, it should have a psychological drama with scary moments. I feel under the service of this story is a really solid detective/ghost story, but it’s restricted by being a horror so puts in scares which don’t do much to enhance the film. Also, I’m getting very annoyed with films being ruined by their trailers. I’d seen two trailers for this; one of which I saw back in November and was mainly focused on one of the characters in the shower and freaky shit starts happening. A well made scene, but it’s also the final scene of the film, it takes place after the “monster” is supposed to have died, so after the “death” you just sit there thinking “I know it’s not the end as we haven’t seen the scene which the entire advertising campaign was based around”. Especially since I think the revelation at the end was supposed to be a twist. It would be like if The Usual Suspects had the tagline “Kevin Spacey is….Keyser Soze”.

+The way the film opened was fantastic and was one of my favourite 10 seconds of cinema of the year so far. They put the Paramount logo into the film itself, by showing it on tv screens on an airplane. They also distorted the logo as it was playing. I love when films do things like that, it grabs your attention immediately

-That closing scene does so much damage to the film.

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Split

Nothing inherently wrong with this movie, I just never brought the central concept. It’s like if I was watching a film where Ryan Gosling plays a character who is too ugly to get a date, they’d need to be a moment in the film which means you can buy the central concept as otherwise you’ll just be sitting there thinking “yeah this is BS”. This film never has that moment, as such it kind of fails. The acting in it was superb though, Anya Taylor-Joy continues to impress after last years The Witch, whilst James McAvoy does fantastic facial work, it gets to the point where you can tell which personality is in control of him from a still shot of his face.

+McAvoy is great. And it’s got me very excited for the sequel.

-Was this film just to make a sequel to unbreakable? Seems like a waste, because that film seemed like it was only made to be a prequel.

Suburbicon

Disappointing. Has a sub-plot which goes absolutely nowhere. It keeps seeming like it’s going to interact with the main story but never does, it could be cut entirely and the film wouldn’t change. It seems like it’s just there to say “people used to be racist, which is bad”, and then does nothing else other than that.

+Tremendous ensemble cast.

-Doesn’t live up to its potential.

The Book Of Henry

Read this was the worst film of the year, and responsible for director losing Star Wars job. I actually kind of liked it. I never need to see it again but it wasn’t the worst film I’ve seen. I mean, yeah it does seem like two different films awkwardly put together but the performances are compelling enough.

+Opening half is great character work.

-Closing half doesn’t match it, at all.

The Lego Ninjago Movie

Doesn’t seem to be done with as much love for the subject matter as the original lego movies. The Lego Batman movie was obviously done by someone who loved Batman (or at the very least knew a lot about it), this isn’t. There’s no subtle references to films of the genre, it’s just a standard boring film with the only lego-ness being a villain who’s a cat.

+The villain being a cat is very very funny.

-Bit dull.

The Mountain Between Us

When it was just “two people trapped on a mountain”, was a superb film. Once they added the romance bit I kind of tapped out, just didn’t work at all. And the “realisation shot” was straight out of a low-budget music video for a James Blunt soundalike.

+The first two thirds are fantastic. Brilliantly tense and haunting. And it looks great.

-The romance bit is a bit, erm, shit. And the make-up team needed to do better. Despite them being near death, they never really looked it physically.

The Snowman

A lot more brutal than I expected. The reveal of the killer could have been done better, and it juggled too many characters at once so was a bit of a bloated mess. Not as terrible as I thought it would be though.

+Looked superb, and was suitably brutal.

-Really unsatisfying reveal. And a lot of the scenes were hard not to laugh at.

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I much prefer this version

Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets

I get both the love the hate for this film. Nothing I can say will do it better than I did earlier in the year here.

+The opening scene is tremendous. Like, seriously brilliant. Almost worth watching the film for, sets the world brilliantly. From that moment I had seriously high hopes and thought I’d love this film.

-The visuals, the story, the characters. In short…so so much. I can forgive bad films, I can’t forgive dull ones.

 

 

How We Got Through…October 2017

A Monster Calls

Just as depressing as the film, actually slightly more so. This isn’t something you enjoy as such, but it is something you appreciate because of how brilliant and heartbreaking it is. Also, the book I got looked beautiful in terms of artwork, is like everything was drawn with charcoal, really suited it. Although the film had a unique look as well, but that was more “watercolours”, this is very different, childlike, but an advanced child.

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Ayoade On Ayoade

I got this, was a fun read, but I don’t need to read it again. I can’t imagine what it’s like to read this if you have no idea who he is.

Bachelor Number 2

I actually love Aimee Mann, first heard her on an Anti-Valentines Day radio show. That single show was probably the most influential radio show I’ve ever heard, I got into Aimee Mann, Regina Spektor, and a few other bands whose names don’t occur to me anymore (one was basically a woman leaving a series of increasingly angry voicemail messages set to a dance beat, loved it for some reason). I describe Aimee Mann’s music as basically “Acoustic Snark”. She’s best known for her work on the Magnolia soundtrack (almost said Memento there for no reason whatsoever, because they both begin with M? That’s stupid even for my mind, might as well have said Monty Python And The Holy Grail, that’s an M too) but her other stuff is great too (in particular The Forgotten Arm, and yes, I would understand it if you forgot that prior to this was a full sentence that you forgot how it began, what with the extended parenthesis).

Danny Collins

Kind of sweet. You can tell Pacino is having the time of his life here, it seems like the role was written for him. A very well-written and performed film, with a pretty cool soundtrack. When I first saw it I expected it to be just okay but it’s actually really good. The music is good, the performances are good, and the background characters are rich in terms of characterisation. The trouble with a lot of films is making everybody seem like they’re actual people, making them seem like they exist when the cameras aren’t pointed at them. This does that very well, even the minor characters feel fleshed out.

Detroit

This film suffers from the same problem as a lot of films about the subject do, the villains are so 2-dimensional that it’s hard to buy into the film. The trouble with doing films about race set in 1960’s etc US is that you can’t create a compelling villain. To me, a good villain is just a misguided hero, one where you can kind of see their point. You can’t have that with this, the bad guys are so obviously wrong they’re impossible to defend, they’re obviously pricks. Which is depressing as that’s what it was like back then, a lot of people in power were indefensible pricks who deserved to be punched in the kidneys. Also, the pacing is weird, you have an entire subplot about a band that doesn’t really add anything except 30 minutes to the runtime.

Fist Fight

Pointless. Not entirely sure why this exists. Slightly funny in parts but seems like one of those films that perpetually came out a few years ago and you missed it and forgot it exists.

Flatliners

Brave move killing off who they did. It’s weird as it’s not really sure what it wants to be, is it a remake, a sequel, or something entirely new? Nobody knows, least of all the film itself.

Geri’s Game

One of the very early Pixar films. Shows a lot of promise but lacks that certain Pixar magic. They got a lot better but you can see the early glimpses of what makes Pixar pixar.

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How To Be A Serial Killer

Really enjoyed this. A lot of fun, the kind of film I wish I wrote. Funny, original, and stylish.

The Inbetweeners

Funny, crude, but the second film is a massive disappointment. Weird how quickly this series has left the public consciousness.

IT

Wonderful soundtrack. Some films have had better songs, but few films I’ve seen this year have had songs which suit the film better.

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Also, fucking terrifying.

Keanu

The best use of George Michael in cinema. Ever. Has a great ending too.

Laid

Probably the only sitcom I’ver ever seen which features a scene where the main character tries to fashion a splint out of ice lolly sticks so that they can rape a guy who will stop everyone they’ve had sex with dying.

Solace Of The Road

Not too great a start, but a great closing stretch. The writing reminded me very much of someone I went to uni with, but less good.

The Mountain Between Us

When it was just “two people trapped on a mountain”, was a superb film. Once they added the romance bit I kind of tapped out, just didn’t work at all. And the “realisation shot” was straight out of a low-budget music video for a James Blunt soundalike.

The Ritual

This film did something I will forever love it for; it put most the bits from the trailer in the opening half. I liked this as it meant you weren’t thinking “ok, what from the trailer haven’t I seen yet?”. Chilling, well told and well performed. Book is now on my “to-read” list.

The Snowman

A lot more brutal than I expected. The reveal of the killer could have been done better, and it juggled too many characters at once so was a bit of a bloated mess. Not as terrible as I thought it would be though.

The Witches

Loved it!

The Young Offenders

Kind of charming, rather funny. Has a scene where a disabled drug dealer shoots someone with a nail gun. Seems like a tv show, which as of next year it will be, and I can’t wait.

You Can’t Kill Stephen King

Not a fan. I expected it to be funny and meta, but was just a bit nonsensical. Just wasn’t very fun. Not saying it was serious, far from it, it just seemed a bit “meh”, the film equivalent of dust in the wind.