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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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.

Tomb Raider (2018)

This is definitely the best video game film I’ve seen, although that’s like describing something as “the best smelling piece of faeces”. Video game movies don’t have the best reputation, and for a good reason, most of them are REALLY bad. Like “worst films ever” level of bad. I’m not entirely sure why but I have theories. One is that the movie industry doesn’t take video games seriously so when they make video game movies they don’t do any research into what made the game work, or why people like it. They usually just look at a still image of it and take it from there (for Super Mario I’m not even sure they did that. I would actually love to hear a podcast series where people interview scriptwriters, directors and studio executives to see how certain films came out as bad as they did). So they go in just paying lip service to the source material and it comes out terrible. The other theory is that they deliberately don’t put much effort in as they know “the name will sell it”, then the film gets bad reviews and nobody sees it. This causes it to fail, which then makes studios less likely to put effort into similar future releases as “they always fail” causing a circular journey of failure (which is the title of my biography). The annoying thing is they can be good, some of the best storytelling of modern times has been in video games (especially in terms of original concepts), so if they were made by people who knew what they were doing they could end up being cult classics.

You can tell a lot of effort went into making this, and yes, I am aware of how super condescending that sounds “they tried really hard”. But when watching this you can tell that this won’t be anybody’s old shame. This is one of the few video game movies that works as a movie, to the point where you almost forget it’s based on a game. Admittedly that might be because I missed a lot of references to the games as I’ve never played them (I was always more of a Nintendo person). The trouble with a lot of video game films is they focus more on the “video game” parts, so if you’re not a fan of the games you’ll detest the films, or they’ll be so full of unsubtle references that you sit there going “I assume that would be very entertaining if I got the reference”. This is a movie, first and foremost, it’s not just a video game movie, it’s an action movie that happens to be based on a video game. Which is how it should be, people don’t describe Rambo, Princess Diaries, or Jaws as “book movies”, they’re just “movies”. I’m hoping this film changes things, and that we will soon get more movies like this. Eternal Darkness, for example, would make a great horror movie, and the fact there’s not even rumours of a Saints Row film is confusing to me, after Deadpool proved that that kind of humour in films can make a lot of money, that should have been optioned by somebody and made.

I suppose I should actually talk about the film itself. The story is simple but effective, you’re not going to be wowed by the script really, it’s incredibly workmanlike. It has a job to do and it gets it done. Performances vary, but Alicia “looks like Brie Larson in some films, and Natalie Portman in others” Vikander (yes, that is actually her middle name, honest) does exactly what she needs to. You won’t remember her performance at the end of the year but that’s not a bad thing, on the plus side it means it wasn’t bad enough to become notable (and let’s face it, it’s going to be incredibly hard to stand out as a good performance in a year which both The Shape Of Water and Three Billboards were released). That’s a summary for this film, you won’t love it, but you certainly can’t hate it, and if somebody said it was their favourite film you wouldn’t judge them as much as you would if they said it was Resident Evil, in which case you’d be well within your rights to shoot them.

Why we love….Super Mario World

I’ll admit straight up that this isn’t going to be entirely objective. A lot of my love for this is personal. This is the Mario game I grew up with, the one where I learnt the basics and mastered the complex parts, the one which (and this isn’t an exaggeration) defined gaming for me. Every platform game I played after this was compared to it, and let’s be honest, very few even come close (off the top of my head: Space Station Silicon Valley, Donkey Kong Country, other Mario games). That kind of sucks actually that the first game I played couldn’t be matched, it would be like if the first punk album you heard was London Calling. Ideally your first game should be like your favourite film as a child, objectively kind of bad but you have nostalgic love for it (For me, Short Circuit, which watched as an adult is so mildly racist).

This actor is white, the character…not so much

So yeah, this was the first Mario game I loved, yet was the third Mario game I ever played (after two Game Boy games, Super Mario Land, and the obviously titled sequel Super Mario Land 2). Yet it was only about five years ago that I completed it. The difficulty level of this game is just right, there’s no “and this is where it starts to get really hard” level. It’s a slide from “if you die on this level, how?” to “you only lost twenty lives this level, nicely done” that is so gradual you don’t really notice it until you go back to the earlier levels and realise you can probably do them with your eyes shut. Not that you should keep your eyes shut, as that means missing on the visuals. Now I’m not going to lie and say “the graphics for this still hold up to modern games”, as that’s a lie. But that says more about modern graphics than the graphics of the game itself. I think 2D platform graphics peaked at this, there was no “well it looks okay, except for….”, everything looks lush and gorgeous. The clouds look so fluffy they’re practically candy floss.

chocolate
Disappointingly this game isn’t edible.

But now it’s time for the ultimate question; is this game “good for its time” or just “good”. There are many games I loved growing up that have not aged well. Primarily it is 3D games, as graphics were so blocky then and are so smooth now that it can be hard to believe what was considered life-like. Games like Tomb Raider for example, once held up as graphical perfection, looks plain ugly now. It’s not just graphics, gameplay has moved on leaps and bounds, mostly in sports games and FPS. I don’t know if you’ve tried to play a Fifa game from before 1998, here’s my advice; don’t. As a genre it’s moved on so much that it’s impossible to play older ones without thinking “this is missing something”. Same with FPS, because so many of the things it innovated are now commonplace, even Goldeneye is kind of terrible by today’s standards.

207063-goldeneye_007___execution

This game, though? It never feels lacking. There’s no moments where you find yourself attempting to do something from a later game on reflex. Want to know how well this game still holds up? Look at the reviews on gamefaqs.com. The lowest one is 2.5/5. That’s the lowest. Nobody on the internet actively hates this game, and that’s the internet, they hate everything. Even the low review seems to be done mainly so he can have the lowest score on it. There are reviews from this year which declare it near perfection. There are people still playing it today. This game came out almost 25 YEARS AGO in Europe, and there are people still playing it. That to me is the mark of a good game. It’s not about sales, it’s about retention, about being so good that people don’t want to get rid of it. Back In Black is one of the best-selling albums of all time yet I have never seen it in a second-hand shop or a boot fair, because almost everyone who owns it loves it and wants to keep it. Almost everything is iconic, the music, the look, the level design, oh my god the level design. You know how when you’re playing old Tony Hawk’s games (never THPS5, nobody plays that), and almost everything in the game is laid out to perform perfect lines? That’s what this game is like. Everything’s laid out so you can get through it with the right rhythm etc. There’s also the sense of exploration. You can just go through the game as it looks and complete it. But you can also explore the levels, take different routes, and you’re rewarded for that.

blue yoshi
At one point reward by this little guy. Who is awesome.

I suppose the true brilliance of this game is when you beat it you don’t want to move through to another game, you want to play it again. It really kicked off the “100% completist” attitude to console gaming which Rare later perfected (or exploited, depending on your attitude). When you spoke about it, it wasn’t just “have you beaten the boss?” it was “did you find this level?”. I didn’t know until two years ago there’s a secret level in the second world which is basically the platform equivalent of a motorway service station, with weapons and extra life in there. Now that’s it about Super Mario World, let’s hope Odyssey can match it. Join us next week when we’ll be (hopefully) talking about Airplane. If you have any thoughts on that, this, or anything else, let us know on the facebook or in the comments section below. Until then, if you need awesome looking shirts, cushions, or bags, check out Let Lou’s here and check out what they’ve got, some amazing designs available.